UN seeks urgent action to avert drug-resistance crisis

  • Thmey Thmey
  • May 1, 2019 2:47 AM

International organisations make recommendations to combat drug-resistant infections and prevent 'staggering number of deaths' each year.

A United Nations group has released a report calling for action to avert a “potentially disastrous” global drug-resistance crisis. In a statement released in New York Monday, the UN Ad Hoc Interagency Coordinating Group on Antimicrobial Resistance warned that drug-resistant diseases could cause 10 million deaths each year by 2050.

The statement said economic damage could be on a similar scale to the global financial crisis of 2008 and that drug resistance could force up to 24 million people into extreme poverty by 2030.

“At least 700,000 people die each year due to drug-resistant diseases, including 230,000 people who die from multidrug-resistant tuberculosis.

“More and more common diseases, including respiratory tract infections, sexually transmitted infections and urinary tract infections, are untreatable,” the statement said.

“Lifesaving medical procedures are becoming much riskier, and our food systems are increasingly precarious." Medicines becoming ineffective The ad-hoc group said the world was already feeling the economic and health consequences of medicines becoming ineffective.

“Without investment from countries in all income brackets, future generations will face the disastrous impacts of uncontrolled antimicrobial resistance,” it said.

The group called for national action plans to scale-up financing and capacity-building as well as stronger regulatory systems and awareness programs. It also recommended research and development for new technologies and urgently phasing out the use of antimicrobials as growth promoters in agriculture.

‘One of the greatest threats we face’ “Antimicrobial resistance is one of the greatest threats we face,” said UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, one of the co-chairs of the group. She said the report reflected the depth and scope of the response needed.

“I urge all stakeholders to act on its recommendations and work urgently to protect our people and planet,” the deputy secretary-general said. The statement said the crisis called for "immediate engagement" from governments, the private sector, civil society and academia.

José Graziano da Silva, director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), said antimicrobials were “critical” to safeguard food production, safety and trade as well as human and animal health.

Need for viable alternatives to antimicrobial use “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,” he said.

Monique Eloit, director general of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), said antimicrobial resistance “must be addressed urgently by governments and other stakeholders, supported by international organisations."

“We must all play our part in ensuring future access to and efficacy of these essential medicines,” she said. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organisation (WHO), said the planet was at a "critical point in the fight to protect some of our most essential medicines.

" Ghebreyesus, who also serves as a co-chair of the ad-hoc group, said the report's recommendations "could save thousands of lives every year.”

The UN set up the ad-hoc group on antimicrobial resistance after a high-level meeting in 2016. Its secretariat is hosted by the WHO in Geneva, with contributions from the FAO in Rome and OIE in Paris.

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