News and Opinions  –  2023

Latin America Empowered Communities: One Health meeting with diverse and hopeful voices

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For ReAct Latin America, the World Antimicrobial Awareness Week 2023 (WAAW) was an opportunity to bring together diverse voices through innovative and inspiring meetings and events. The events harbored diverse voices with the aim of promoting a One Health perspective, providing participants with an opportunity to promote mobilization and action in favor of health. This was achieved by drawing on the practices of communities, the knowledge of academia, and the interconnectedness of humans and the planet to address antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

The ReAct Latin America team, welcoming colleagues from ReAct Europe in Cuenca.

Empowered Communities Meeting

Antibiotic resistance is a problem considered by the United Nations as one of the most urgent global health issues. This has prompted intervention strategies to urgently improve the responsible use of antibiotics. This requires a comprehensive approach starting from healthcare facilities, schools, and communities seeking a change in planetary health care.

During November 3, 15, and 16, Cuenca, Ecuador, hosted the Third Latin American and Caribbean Meeting of Empowered Communities. The meetings brought together representatives from Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America, with the sole purpose of conducting in-person and virtual learning sessions on Antimicrobial Resistance, translated into Spanish, English, and Portuguese.

The Empowered Communities Meeting promoted intergenerational, intercultural, and comprehensive dialogue to care for and preserve our health and that of the planet. Through learning and the exchange of experiences and innovative projects, this meeting sought to raise awareness about the care of antimicrobials in our communities.

The meeting days were arranged by the Municipal GAD of Cuenca, ReAct Latin America, the Cantonal Health Council of Cuenca, and the Pan American Health Organization (/PAHO/WHO). They also facilitated various activities during the World Antimicrobial Awareness Week, providing a space to share practices regarding the use of antimicrobials for present and future generations.

The Empowered Communities Initiative

The Empowered Communities initiative is a developing network of organized communities, universities, governmental and international organizations. The initiative encourages the participation and empowerment of organized communities in developing consensus-based strategies at the local level. These strategies align with the National Action Plan (NAP) on antimicrobial resistance from a One Health perspective.

During the meetings, working sessions and presentations were held, both in-person and virtual, simultaneously translated into English, Spanish, and Portuguese.

The topics of the meeting included:

1. Our Planet, Our Health: Caring for Mother Earth in the face of antimicrobial resistance.

2. Food as Medicine: Healing bodies, territories, and communities.

3. Learning to care for antimicrobials in our community: education and communication to optimize the use of antimicrobials in the community from the One Health approach.

Over these three days, 605 people from around the world participated, addressing issues related to the care of Mother Earth, healthy food from cultivation to consumption, and various education and communication actions aimed at raising awareness about this issue and seeking solutions that bring about a change in people’s lives.

Dancing with Bacteria  – providing a sensory understanding of bacteria

Cuenca was also the perfect setting for the performance “Dancing with Bacteria”. The performance encourages the audience to learn through their senses to understand the composition of our bodies, starting from the tiny elements that take shape with each movement and sound.

Image from the “Dancing with Bacteria” performance 2023.

Directed by Alexis Zapata, a musicologist and university professor, the performance is built through sounds and movement, allowing a sensory understanding of how our bacteria dance within us, realizing that we are not at war with them but are a part of them.

According to Satya Sivaraman, ReAct Asia Pacific’s communication advisor and creator of the metaphors behind “Dancing with Bacteria”, bacteria are not just synonymous with disease and death. They are part of an ancient and rich ecosystem of organisms indispensable for all life on Earth.

School children with the Alforja Material.

Activities during World Antimicrobial Resistance Awareness Week (WAAW)

The World Antimicrobial Awareness Week also marked the beginning of various activities in Venezuela, Argentina, Ecuador, Bolivia, and El Salvador, combining art, science, and academia.

The week began with the Open House of Healthy Eating, which welcomed the participation of several health institutions and organizations. ReAct Latin America introduced its Alforja Educativa Project through games and dynamics that captured the attention of children and the public. Attendees also had the opportunity to learn more about the printed material contained in the Educational Saddlebag.

This week also paved the way for the presentation of two important books: “Aesthetics of the Invisible: Dancing with Bacteria for Planetary Health” and “Let’s Make Stories, Telling Our Stories”. The two written works involve poets, artists, writers, academics, and researchers, showcasing the language of bacteria alongside tangible elements to break the paradigms of war and encouraging us to live in harmony with microorganisms.

Inspiring lectures

Those who participated in the events during this week gained practical knowledge on the proper use of antimicrobials. Ricardo Mora, an expert zoologist and lecturer, shared clear examples of how laws have been implemented in other countries to control medication use for animals intended for consumption and the need for these practices to be adopted by large industries.

Similarly, Ana Maya, a Health Specialist, shared how the Consumer Defense Institute of Brazil carries out a series of actions to control the improper use of antibiotics in animal breeding. However, there is much more to be done and emulated in other Latin American countries.

Conclusions and highlights from WAAW

  • The importance of directing interventions in the field to promote agricultural and livestock production free of medications.
  • The need to raise awareness in communities about the proper use of antibiotics through coordinated efforts on a state level, through medical supplies providers, health professionals, and consumers.
  • Good health is heavily linked to nutrition, which is obtained from chemical-free products, so the consumption of organic foods should be promoted.
  • Generating responsible awareness in large industries about the use of medications in animal breeding requires not only civil awareness campaigns but also the intervention of public policy.
  • Art plays a crucial role in the fight against AMR today, as through the senses, we can understand the importance of bacteria, breaking the paradigm of war to learn to dance with them.
  • Taking action against AMR is a task that involves everyone. Through a combination of actions emerging from science, art, and communication we can create change.

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