FAO to support prudent use of antimicrobials in Africa

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The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has pledged support to enhance the prudent use of antimicrobials in Africa’s farming systems.

Scott Newman, Senior Animal Health and Livestock Production Officer at FAO Regional Office for Africa, said the support will help reduce antimicrobial resistance in agricultural systems and the environment.

The misuse of these drugs, associated with the emergence and spread of antimicrobial-resistant micro-organisms, places everyone at great risk and poses a threat to public health, sustainable food production and potentially to biodiversity and ecological systems,’’ Newman said.

He said that the sheer magnitude and complexity of the antimicrobial resistance and antimicrobial pollution calls for a coordinated and integrated approach to eradicating the challenge.

Newman urged a multi-sectoral approach inclusive of the public and animal health sectors, the agricultural production sectors, environment and ecosystem sectors to contain antimicrobial resistance.

He noted that antibiotics in the environment can affect the overall composition and diversity of the microbial community crucial for the performance of important ecological functions such as nutrient cycling, decomposition and primary productivity in both aquatic and terrestrial environments.

Antibiotics present in the environment at low concentrations can accumulate in human populations through long-term exposure to drinking water, food or consumer goods with unknown health consequences, according to Newman.

He said that antimicrobials play a critical role in the treatment of diseases of humans, farm animals (aquatic and terrestrial) and plants.

We are supporting responsible use of antimicrobials because their use is essential to food security, human well-being and to animal welfare.’’

He urged African countries to improve awareness on antimicrobials, develop the capacity for surveillance and monitoring, strengthen governance and promote good practices in food and agricultural systems, including the prudent use of antimicrobials.

Due to the dangers posed by antimicrobials, FAO, World Health Organisation and the United Nations Environment Programme developed the tripartite work plan on antimicrobials targeting 10 countries including Kenya, Burkina Faso, Senegal and Zimbabwe in support of the Global Action Plan on antimicrobials.