ZIMBABWE – The Zimbabwe AMR Country grant consortium consisting of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) as lead grantee, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Biomedical Research and Training Institute (BRTI) have partnered to rehabilitate 14 human and animal health laboratories which were commissioned in May 2022.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a natural phenomenon in which bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites become tolerant to antimicrobial agents and render them useless for their intended therapeutic purposes.

Zimbabwe is aware that the sectors engaged in food, agriculture, the environment, and health must work closely together to control AMR.

Accordingly, the nation has established a “One Health” strategy as a guiding principle for cooperating to solve AMR challenges, as indicated by the tripartite, which includes the Ministries of Agriculture, Health, and Environment.

The refurbishment is part of the project named “Addressing Gaps in Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance in Zimbabwe” which is sponsored to the tune of U.S$4 million by the UK Government’s Fleming Fund.

After almost a year, the consortium and the government, represented by the Directorate of Laboratory Services in the Ministry of Health and Child Care and the Directorate of Veterinary Services, set out on a one-week field mission to assess, discover, and enhance the laboratories’ performance in AMR surveillance while creating a long-term One Health roadmap.

“Sustainability is key to the success of this project. This mission has given us the opportunity to appreciate the progress made since rehabilitating and equipping these laboratories in AMR surveillance and diagnostic capacity in general. 

“We have taken note of the challenges while mapping how to implement sustainable AMR surveillance strategies. The laboratories constitute a nucleus of One Health approaches that facilitate interlinkages in AMR surveillance between public, animal, and environmental health,” said Patrice Talla, FAO Sub-regional Coordinator for Southern Africa and FAO Representative to Zimbabwe.

The process of renovating the laboratories began in 2019 when the nation designated 14 priority laboratories to take part in the pilot AMR surveillance program at the national level using a comprehensive One Health strategy.

After that, capacity analyses were conducted to help with the development of technical specifications on the scope of work for the acquisition of equipment and reagents as well as the rehabilitation of the infrastructure.

A five-year National One Health AMR Action Plan for Zimbabwe was created in 2017 and is in line with the global AMR Action Plan.

The trip is timely because the government has just started working on its second-generation national action plan for AMR.

Zimbabwe ready to reinforce AMR surveillance

The FAO Progressive Management Pathway review done in April 2022 was one of the assessments that influenced the development of the second iteration of the AMR National Action Plan.

This visit confirmed that Zimbabwe is now in a good position to strengthen its AMR surveillance and play its part in the global data collection, analysis, and aggregation of AMR, including the generation of information on trends over time and the definition of the health and economic implications of AMR for the public health, environment, food, and agriculture sectors.

The ultimate objective is to influence the prioritization of evidence-based policies and programs for AMR mitigation measures across the relevant sectors using data gathered from the surveillance of priority pathogens.

In order to help in the collection of AMR and AMU data in the agri-food systems, FAO has recently built a global IT platform known as International FAO Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring (InFARM).

Zimbabwe has already made progress in establishing an AMR surveillance system, making it one of the pilot nations to take part in this international endeavor.

“The Government of Zimbabwe appreciates the role this project is playing towards addressing gaps in AMR surveillance in the country. 

“In terms of sustainability, the rehabilitated laboratories have been incorporated in the Ministry of Health’s 2023 – 2027 strategic plan,” said Tanaka Sakubani, Deputy Director in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Directorate of Laboratory Services.

Moving forward, there is a need to intensify efforts to boost the production of high-quality data and equip employees to produce information and apply it to boost facility-level efficiency, says FAO.

Additionally, information gathered through surveillance will be utilized to shape national AMR policy and contribute to international platforms compiling AMR data.

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