ZIMBABWE – At least 14 laboratories in Zimbabwe have been equipped to provide antimicrobial resistance (AMR) surveillance data thanks to financing from the Fleming Fund, a UK aid programme that helps countries fight AMR.

Five of these are devoted to veterinary research, seven to human health, one to food, and one to the environment.

Surveillance is a vital tool to provide crucial information that shapes the public health interventions. Sturdy information management systems are crucial for analyzing and managing data from multisector AMR surveillance systems.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO) have helped the Government of Zimbabwe increase awareness and comprehension of the features of antimicrobial use in the agriculture sector and their impact on the environment and humans using the One Health concept.

The present COVID-19 epidemic has also highlighted the important connections between the human-animal interface and the requirement for improved health systems and environmental surveillance for people, animals, and the environment.

“Over the past few years, we have had diseases that we never thought we would have such as COVID-19, Marburg disease in Ghana, the monkeypox being recorded in non-endemic countries and the polio outbreak in this region.

“All these outbreaks need us to work together as One Health, to ensure that the country is prepared to deal with such diseases that have shown us the critical link between animal, human and environmental health,” said Dr Raiva Simbi, MoHCC Laboratory Services Director.

FAO and WHO continue to provide crucial support to Zimbabwe to strengthen their AMR surveillance, develop new training modules, and establish voluntary codes of conduct and best practices in food safety and production among other.

FAO outreach efforts related to AMR have targeted high-priority countries including Zimbabwe and key regional organizations to support the development of much-needed action plans.

WHO educates training of trainers

It is on this note that WHO recently educated 60 training of trainers (ToTs) from various ministries on the WHONET software, a crucial data tool created for the management and analysis of microbiology laboratory data.

The tool focuses on the interpretation of antimicrobial susceptibility test findings.

The technology is essential for increasing collaborations and data sharing at the national (District Health Information System 2), regional, and international levels as well as for improving the utilization of surveillance data for local requirements.

“This workshop was very beneficial and informative and will help us generate data that can inform our activities going forward. There is, however, a need to include the environmental aspect of it as the current format is more biased towards human health,” said Edwin Maringe, Environmental Management Agency (EMA) Laboratory Technician.

WHO Collaborating Centre for Surveillance of Antimicrobial Resistance Co-Director John Stelling noted how strategies for the containment of antimicrobial resistance must be based on a thorough understanding of local and national emerging resistance threats. 

Surveillance is a vital tool to provide crucial information that shapes the public health interventions.

The clinical, public health, animal health, food, and environmental laboratories of Zimbabwe offer a rich source of data for tracking and responding to evolving microbial populations, he said.

“Through this workshop, the participants have acquired knowledge, skills and insights that will prove of great value to healthcare providers, policymakers, and most importantly to patients and animal health in Zimbabwe,” added Stelling.

To encourage systematic data collection and analysis, the ToTs are anticipated to cascade the training to additional cadres across AMR surveillance facilities around the nation.

“I have learnt about data management and analysis and how to detect alerts when it comes to microbiology which may arise due to pathogen resistance to antibiotics,” added Dr Grace Mangwayana, Veterinary Epidemiologist in Masvingo.

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