Antimicrobial Resistance could kill 4.1 million people across Africa by 2050

2021-11-18 19:41:45
Antimicrobial Resistance could kill 4.1 million people across Africa by 2050

Antimicrobial Resistance, or AMR could kill 4.1 million people across Africa by 2050 unless we take action to 'Resist the Resistance' now, the World Health Organization has said.

The emergence and spread of antimicrobial resistance in Africa – where micro-organisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites are resistant to antimicrobial treatment – is complicating the management of many infectious diseases, and endangers animal health and welfare, and food production, safety and security.

The leaders of six regional organizations in Africa have called for stronger governance to fight antimicrobial resistance, at the start of the World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (18-24 November).

Holistic approach

Addressing AMR requires an holistic and multi-sectoral approach. World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW) in Africa aims to encourage best practices among the public, health workers, farmers, animal health professionals and policy makers to prevent further emergence and spread of drug-resistant infections in people and animals.

The week also marks two years since a unique partnership of six regional organizations was formed to push ahead on fighting AMR in Africa, involving the Tripartite Partners (the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), and the World Health Organization (WHO), with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) , the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), and the African Union Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR).

A report by WHO says developing countries across Africa could lose up to 5% of their GDP as a result of AMR. That means the financial toll of antimicrobial resistance would be deeper than the 2008 financial crisis.

Killer infections resistant to antibiotics

Killer infections like tuberculosis (TB) have become resistant to the antibiotic drugs that save lives. Malaria, which kills 3,000 children in Africa every day, is becoming resistant to a once-effective treatment. If we don’t Resist the Resistance, we could lose these life-saving medicines.

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is making AMR worse. One recent study found that among patients who went to hospital with COVID-19, 72% were given an antimicrobial they did not need. Only 8% had infections that were treatable with this life-saving medicine.

Concern in Tanzania

In Tanzania’s northern Tanga region, growing resistance against antibiotics has been exposing people mostly children to life-threatening bacteria, say health experts.

On World Antibiotics Awareness Week, public health experts in Tanzania have sounded an alarm against misuse of antibiotics among children in Tanga and elsewhere, which has made bacteria more resistant to drugs.

The World Health Organization (WHO) in a message has urged health stakeholders, policymakers, and health care providers to spread awareness and stop resistance.

“Public awareness is critical. Many parents in rural areas are not aware of the risk posed by giving their children drugs without doctor’s advice,” Naima Zacharia, a senior epidemiologist at the Bombo Referral Hospital in Tanga, told AA News Agency.

Antibiotic failure causing respiratory diseases

The failure of antibiotic drugs to fight pathogens is causing acute respiratory diseases and diarrhea and killing underage children in the East African country every year.

Globally at least 700,000 people die each year due to drug-resistant infections. The number is expected to rise to 10 million deaths by 2050, according to WHO.

Zacharia said health workers need to discourage people to give antibiotics to underage children without prescription. “Once the bacteria develop resistance they persist for much longer,” she said.

According to Zacharia, the prevalence of resistance to commonly prescribed antibiotics in children with urinary tract infection (UTI) in the Pangani district, for instance, has rendered some medicines less effective as first-line treatment for infections.

It is estimated that about one in 10 girls, and one among 30 boys in Tanzania contracted the UTI by the age of 16.

Lack of safe water, poor sanitation, and inadequate infection control further aggravate the spread of deadly bacteria, she warned.

Cash-strapped parents

Although Tanzania with a 62 million population had launched an action plan to curb misuse of antibiotics, the cash-strapped parents still buy strong drugs over-the-counter to avoid consulting doctors.

Health authorities in Tanga have confirmed that resistance to commonly used antibiotics among children in the impoverished coastal region is significant.

At the Choba Nursury School in Pangani, a caretaker Janet Mrindoko, 32, tries her best to protect the children from bacteria or viruses by her awareness program.

“I have been instructed to look after them, it is my duty to ensure that they don’t catch bacteria,” she said.

Suleiman Swaleh, a pediatrician at the hospital, said many parents in rural areas wrongly believe that antibiotics can be used to treat colds and flu among children.

In some cases, low-income families directly go to the pharmacy to purchase antibiotics even though their children’s illness is not caused by bacteria.

“We avoid going to the hospital because they will ask you to pay to see a doctor, and pay for drawing blood from your arm for examination,” said Saida Makalu, a resident of Pangani.

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