In partnership with South Centre, ReAct Africa hosted its 3rd annual conference. Beginning November, this regional conference brought together 67 participants from 22 African countries. A truly One Health representation, the conference had almost equal representation from the human health, animal health, agriculture and environment sectors.
The three-day meeting unpacked, in greater detail, how antimicrobial resistance relates with the sustainable development goals. This link between antimicrobial resistance and sustainable development goals has been previous articulated in a ReAct development dialogue paper – Antimicrobial Resistance – a Threat to the World’s Sustainable Development. The conference identified successes, challenges and recommendations for the implementation of National Action Plans on Antimicrobial Resistance in relation to the sustainable development goals and the One Health including governance.
“I wasn’t aware how important the environment is regarding antimicrobial resistance.”
Mr. Rodwell Chandipo, Zambia Environmental Management Agency
Highlights of the successes of National Action Plan implementation
It is very pleasing to note that most countries have developed a National Action Plan on AMR or are in the process of developing one. Implementation has begun in some countries and activities cover all pillars of the Global Action Plan, except for research & development.
Countries have seen the importance and strategic value of FAO, OIE and WHO’s technical guidance in building capacity at the national level and support from civil society organizations such as ReAct. Moreover, countries are also successfully including civil society organizations in implementation of their National Action Plans and are seeking further opportunities for this type of collaboration.
Highlights of the Challenges of National Action Plan implementation
Full awareness of the reach and real consequences of antimicrobial resistance, technical and human capacity, funding and data on antimicrobial resistance, are among the limitations to effective implementation of National Action Plans. Further, important infrastructure such as clean water, laboratories, medicines etc. remains inadequate in many countries. It is worth noting that most of the country representatives confirmed that they do not have full-time staff dedicated to antimicrobial resistance. This is a concern.
Despite collaboration between the multiple sectors, in-country coordination of the various government departments is a challenge. There is also need to improve the coordination of the tripartite plus UNEP at the national level in addition to more coordination of government representatives.
Adequate communication strategies, which provide clear messages, to communicate antimicrobial resistance to all stakeholders and target groups remain difficult. Further, access and affordability to antibiotics remains a challenge.
“We are at the start of the National Action Plan process, this conference gives us the tools to realize a strong National Action Plan on AMR.”
Professor Joseph Kanu, AMR focal point Sierra Leone
Highlights of the opportunities for action
Countries could use the links between sustainable development goals and antimicrobial resistance as a way to leverage resources and increase awareness, even as a funding resource at the national level. Those countries that are still in the process of development of National Action Plans could look for opportunities to link their National Action Plans on AMR with the sustainable development goals immediately. Mainstreaming antimicrobial resistance at the country level, perhaps through the work of development partners, could help to ensure further integration of antimicrobial resistance across sectors. Low- and middle-income countries will need funding support to be able to fully implement.
“The link to sustainable development goals has given us a clear direction on how to tap into more resources.”
Ms. Kapona Otridah, Zambia National Public Health Institute – Ministry of Health
A clear area where actions can be directed is at promoting engagements with media in order to support efforts of awareness rising.
There was a clear call to the tri-partite plus and other relevant actors to coordinate their country support to avoid duplication and to optimize the use of resources.
It is important that the political momentum is kept at the highest level. Therefore, efforts to involve regional bodies such as the African Union, Eastern African Community and others are crucial to ensure support for antimicrobial resistance. This may also mean that financing institutions be included.
The UN Interagency Coordination Group on Antimicrobial Resistance should think about establishing a system to coordinate actions at the global level and this coordination should be replicated at the regional and national level to ensure coherence. There is a need to either expand the mandate of the UN Interagency Coordination Group on Antimicrobial Resistance or create a structure that can help coordinate action at the global level. Accountability needs to strengthen at all levels.
Participants showed signs of enthusiasm to return to their countries and use the lessons learned to further improve development and implementation of the National Action Plan. ReAct will continue its support to the countries and its advocacy to the regional and global platforms so that low- and middle-income countries receive the necessary support.
React Africa offers its gratitude to South Centre for its solid partnership in making the conference a success.