The Honourable Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Muhammad Mahmood Abubakar stated in his speech earlier on Thursday 18th November 2021, that the World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW) is an annual event aimed at raising awareness on the health threats posed by Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) and promoting good practices that will limit the emergence and spread of resistant infections globally. AMR occurs when disease agents such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites, no longer respond to the action of antimicrobials to which they were hitherto susceptible.
This phenomenon is today considered one of the most important threats to public health in all parts of the world as it drastically limits our ability to effectively treat common infections in humans and animals. Indeed, it has been projected that by 2050, AMR could account for up to 10 million deaths annually and about 4 million of these deaths (representing 40%) are likely to occur in Africa.
Although AMR can occur naturally due to changes in the organism’s genes over time, it is however worsened by inappropriate use of antibiotics such as misuse, underuse and overuse. Some of our actions that contribute to the emergence of resistant pathogens include over-prescription by health workers (Human and Animal), self-medication, lack of adherence to treatment instructions, poor infection prevention and control in healthcare facilities. Other factors are non-compliance with recommended biosecurity practices on farms, lack of awareness and knowledge on antibiotic resistance, absence of regulatory legislation and lack of enforcement of legislation when available. AMR leads to treatment failures with prolonged illnesses and eventual death in humans and animals, increased cost of production, loss of livelihood and threat to national economic development. Within the agricultural and food resources sectors a critical factor that promotes anti-microbial resistance is the slaughter, sale and consumption of animals treated with antimicrobials without observance of the withdrawal period.
The result is the presence of residues in foods of animal origin such as meat, fish, eggs, and milk. It has also been reported that the unregulated application of antibiotics and pesticides on crops during cultivation and post-harvest preservation stages can predispose to residues in these products.
I am aware that the 68th World Health Assembly (WHA) declared AMR a global health emergency that could jeopardize the progress of modern medicine and that Nigeria had developed a National Action Plan (NAP) in line with the Global Action Plan (GAP) to address the menace of AMR within a five-year period (2017 – 2022) using a one health approach (human, animal and environmental Health).
The NAP has five major pillars namely, increasing awareness of AMR among stakeholders through effective communication, education, and training; building a One Health-based AMR surveillance system; promoting rational access to antibiotics and antimicrobial stewardship; intensifying infection prevention and control (and biosecurity in animal production); and investing in AMR research and development. The efforts of FMOH/NCDC, FMoE, FAO, WHO, USAID, UK-AID, The Fleming Fund, DAI and Breakthrough Action in actualizing the activities of the NAP are worthy of high commendation.
Whereas today’s event speaks to the first pillar of the NAP, I have been informed that a lot has been achieved in the implementation of activities in the other pillars. Of all these, the support given to the Government of Nigeria by The Fleming Fund through the Country Grant for strengthening the AMR surveillance system across human, animal and environmental health sectors is worthy of note. I am happy that through this support, a lot has been accomplished along with the five thematic areas of the grant. Of special mention, is the renovation and equipping of seven (7) Animal Health Laboratories across the country to enhance their capacities in conducting One Health AMR surveillance along the food chain in Nigeria. Similar achievements have been recorded in the human and environmental sectors. It is however sad to note that the AMR section of the National Fisheries Laboratory at Lagos was not included in the supply of equipment. Considering the strategic importance of this laboratory to Nigeria’s fisheries and aquatic resources sector I wish to request that the equipment support given to the other laboratories be extended to this lab also.
Ladies and gentlemen, in line with the theme for this year’s WAAW celebration which is ‘Spread Awareness, Stop Resistance’ I call on all of us to join this campaign to stop inappropriate use of antimicrobials. Let us commit this week to the spreading of AMR messages among our family members, colleagues at work, friends and the general public. Let us all remember that failure to take appropriate action at a time when new antibiotics are hardly being developed could mean the return to a pre-antibiotic era in which infections caused by multiple-resistant pathogens are intractable.
Relevant professionals, especially Veterinarians, physicians, nurses and other humans as well as animal health workers should use antimicrobials responsibly and prudently.
Farmers should not use antibiotics to promote growth in animals. Antibiotics should only be used in food-producing animals when prescribed by a Veterinary professional, for the duration indicated and with strict adherence to the withdrawal period. Vaccinations, biosecurity measures and good animal husbandry practices are reliable ways of reducing infections and the need to use antibiotics in livestock.
Pharmaceutical companies should be responsible and accountable in the marketing, supply and distribution of antimicrobials.
I also enjoin the general public not to pressurize doctors into prescribing antibiotics if they are not needed and if we really do need drugs, let us be sure to always follow the doctor’s advice on the right dose and right course of treatment. If we use antibiotics when not needed, we may not have them when they are most needed.
Furthermore, I call on everyone to embrace the lessons learnt from the Covid-19 pandemic and practice appropriate (regular and thorough) handwashing as a means of reducing the spread of germs which will, in turn, reduce the necessity for antibiotics and the risk of resistance.
Finally, I hereby assure you of all of the Government’s continuous commitment to provide the enabling environment for the fight against AMR through the enactment and implementation of appropriate policies, regulations, and programmes aimed at promoting judicious antimicrobial use and control of AMR especially in the agricultural sector (livestock, aquaculture, and crop) and food production. Our support to the Antimicrobial Resistance Coordinating Committee (AMRCC), the Animal Health sector Technical Working Group (AH-TWG), and all relevant agencies, institutions, and organizations involved in the fight against this scourge remain strong.
It is therefore my pleasure to officially declare the 2021 World Antimicrobial Awareness Week in Nigeria open.