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West African nations, WHO, FAO meet over food safety, antimicrobial resistance

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WEST African countries such as Nigeria, Ghana, Gambia, Liberia, Sierra Leone and others on Tuesday met in Abuja, over issues regarding food safety caused by abusive Antimicrobial usage (AMU) and antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

The event which had in attendance representatives from the World Health Organisation (WHO), World Organisation of Animal Health (OIE), West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), the European Union (EU) and other development partners was organised by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to collectively design mitigation measures and better strategic approaches to increase awareness on AMR and related threats.

Speaking at the workshop, Suffyan Koroma, FAO Country Representative described AMR as global threat to human and animal health, capable of endangering modern human and veterinary medicines.

He said aside from undermining the efficacy of both human and animal medicines, the abuse of antibiotics also destroys the environment.

“The fact that human and veterinary health, food and feed production systems and agro-ecological environments all contribute to and are affected by AMR, is an indication that a crisis of this magnitude requires an effective one health approach involving coordination among national and international sectors and actors to curb its occurrence and impacts,” says Koroma.

In April, the WHO shared a report of the United Nations Interagency Coordination Group (IACG) on Antimicrobial Resistance where the group reported that drug-resistant diseases could cause 10 million deaths annually by 2050 and destroy the economy.

It states further that at least 700, 000 people die each year due to drug-resistant diseases.

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“We are at a critical point in the fight to protect some of our most essential medicines,” Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization and Co-Chair of the IACG earlier stated at the report release. “This report makes concrete recommendations that could save thousands of lives every year.”

“The report’s recommendations recognize that antimicrobials are critical to safeguarding food production, safety and trade, as well as human and animal health, and it clearly promotes responsible use across sectors,” José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) also stated in the report. “Countries can foster sustainable food systems and farming practices that reduce the risk of antimicrobial resistance by working together to promote viable alternatives to antimicrobial use, as laid out in the report’s recommendations.”

However, in order to address the problem, the FAO stated that it already rolled out an action plan, titled “Supporting the food and agriculture sectors in implementing the Global Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance to minimize the impact of antimicrobial resistance.”

It includes developing the capacity of AMR surveillance, monitoring and its use in food, agriculture, animal and human context; strengthen governance on antimicrobial use and promote good practices in food and agriculture, human and animal systems and prudent use of antimicrobials.

Koroma further advised participants from the West African countries to discourage their citizens from abusing antimicrobials including pest residues in agricultural products for human consumption.

Omotayo Hamzat, the WHO Focal Persons on AMR said addressing the menace would require concerted efforts of multiple stakeholders.

However, he applauded the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) for linking all government institutions and development partners to develop a national action plan to mitigate the effects of AMR in the country.

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Other representatives are officials from the Federal Ministry of Health, Federal Ministry of Environment, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Developments

Olugbenga is an Investigative Reporter with The ICIR. Do you have a scoop? Shoot him an email at [email protected] Twitter Handle: @OluAdanikin

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