Stakeholders call for swifter action to combat antimicrobial resistance

OMAN – The Third Global High-Level Ministerial Conference on Antimicrobial Resistance, hosted in Muscat, Oman, has spelt out targets to address the global antimicrobial resistance (AMR) challenge, that risks becoming a global health and developmental threat.

The conference concludes World Antimicrobial Awareness Week, an annual week-long global effort that brings together leaders from all industries to emphasize the steps needed to maintain and safeguard antimicrobials.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the COVID-19 pandemic may have constrained global efforts to address AMR, but it has also demonstrated the critical links between humans, animals, and the environmental ecosystem. 

A range of stakeholders – including the health care, pharmaceutical, veterinary, food safety, agricultural, and environmental sectors – have a shared responsibility to continue to collectively respond to AMR.

The conference adopted the Muscat Ministerial Manifesto, which sets out the three global targets for managing AMR.

One of the targets aims to reduce the total amount of antimicrobials used in agri-food systems by at least 30-50% by 2030, galvanizing national and global efforts.

 It also aims to preserve critically important antimicrobials for human medicine, ending the use of medically important antimicrobials for growth promotion in animals;

The third target involves ensuring ‘Access’ group antibiotics (a category of antibiotics that are affordable, safe, and have a low AMR risk) represent at least 60% of overall antibiotic consumption in humans by 2030.

To preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics and stop the spread of AMR globally, as well as to reduce environmental degradation, which will also slow the spread of AMR, globally agreed-upon targets are essential.

Additionally, nations pledged to carry out their national action plans for AMR and strengthen surveillance by enhancing data management and reporting, involving the private sector, and putting evidence-based approaches into action.

Multisectoral response to AMR

The World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Environment Program (UNEP), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and the World Organization for Animal Health (WOAH, founded as OIE), collectively known as the Quadripartite, welcomed the Conference’s conclusions and call for swifter action to combat AMR.

"Antimicrobial resistance is one of the most urgent and complex challenges of our time, and yet perhaps because it is not as dramatic as a pandemic, a war, or a humanitarian emergency, it doesn’t attract the same attention."

FAO recognizes the importance of reducing the need for antimicrobials on farms and will soon launch a global 10-year initiative to provide comprehensive support to Members focusing on transforming agri-food systems to contribute to this reduction,” said FAO Director-General QU Dongyu.

According to Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director for UNEP Inger Andersen, self-reporting by countries indicates that a third of National Action Plans on AMR do not include the environment, gesturing the critical importance of supporting countries to boost actions to prevent and reduce environmental pollution.

“The burden of AMR can be reduced if we focus on all its dimensions and work together. UNEP is committed to working with Member States and key partners, including the Quadripartite organizations, to address AMR,” she said. 

Meanwhile, WOAH Director General Dr. Monique Eloit noted that the use of antimicrobials in animals has shown an overall decrease over the last few years.

“By strengthening biosecurity and husbandry practices, such as animal vaccination, we can further build on this great achievement and sustainably reach the agreed goals. 

“Reducing the need for antimicrobials is the best way to prevent antimicrobial resistance,” he said.

The Quadripartite says they will continue to increase support through a One Health strategy, which balances and improves the health of people, animals, plants, and ecosystems, as stated in the Manifesto.

The alliance will also keep coordinating an international, multisectoral response to AMR, support nations in creating and implementing National Action Plans on AMR, and encourage effective governance and leadership.

The conference and its numerical targets for antimicrobial use in the human and animal sectors will pave the way for bold political commitments at the forthcoming UN General Assembly High-Level Meeting on AMR in 2024.

“Antimicrobial resistance is one of the most urgent and complex challenges of our time, and yet perhaps because it is not as dramatic as a pandemic, a war, or a humanitarian emergency, it doesn’t attract the same attention.

“It is my firm hope that this meeting will pave the way towards bold – and concrete – political commitments at the 2024 UN General Assembly High-Level Meeting on AMR,” said WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

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