At the 33rd Ordinary Assembly of the African Union, African Heads of State and Government endorsed the African Common Position on Antimicrobial Resistance Control.
The African Common Position calls on African Union Member States, regional economic communities and the African Union Commission to develop policies and programmes to improve monitoring, delay emergence, limit transmission, and mitigate harm from antimicrobial resistant organisms. It calls on Member States to finance interventions and train personnel to prevent and control antimicrobial resistance.
Health Ministers of African Union Member States had endorsed the document during the Third Specialized Technical Committee (STC) on Health meeting in Cairo, Egypt, at the end of July 2019, and the Ministers of Agriculture and Environment endorsed it during their STC in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in October 2019.
“Controlling any complex problem starts with political commitment, and African leaders have emphatically recognized the need for immediate action in the human, animal, and environmental sectors,” said Dr John Nkengasong, Director, Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
Common infections, such as pneumonia, urinary tract infections and skin infections, are becoming untreatable and dangerous due to antimicrobial resistance. Infections become drug-resistant when the organisms that cause them change over time, developing the ability to resist the drugs designed to kill them or slow their growth. Globally, antimicrobial resistance is increasing, making modern medicines less effective.
“Antimicrobial resistance is a threat to modern medical care and the health we have all come to appreciate and expect,” said Dr Nkengasong.
“Drug-resistant infections can affect anyone and are already causing more illness and death, threatening the gains made in modern medicine,” said Mirfin Mpundu, Director, ReAct Africa and ICARS Partnership & Stakeholder Engagement Lead for Africa.
Overuse and misuse of antimicrobials in humans and animals is one of the leading causes of antimicrobial resistance. The African Common Position recommends that Member States promote appropriate use of antimicrobials and reduce availability and sale of sub-standard and fake antimicrobials.
“Improving knowledge, awareness and good practices on antimicrobial use is critical,” said Prof. Ahmed El- Sawalhy, Director, African Union InterAfrican Bureau for Animal Resources.
Many antimicrobial resistant organisms are often formed in hospitals and infect people who are already sick with other medical conditions. The African Common Position specifically calls for all healthcare facilities to implement stronger infection prevention and control programmes, including ensuring that water, sanitation, and hygiene meet accepted international standards.
“We need to act now collectively or pay later. We can do something to mitigate antimicrobial resistance because most of the things we need to do is within our reach. We should use antibiotics only when indicated,” said Mirfin Mpundu.