UN announces global fight against antimicrobial resistance

Amina Mohammed, Minister of the Environment

Amina Mohammed, UN Deputy Secretary General

The UN has announced the establishment of an Interagency Coordination Group on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR), which will be co-chaired by Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed and Director-General of World Health Organization (WHO), Dr Margaret Chan.

“As we enter the era of sustainable development, I would like to emphasise that antimicrobial resistance really does pose a formidable threat to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly in our developing countries,” Mohammed said at the event in New York.

Antimicrobial resistance happens when microorganisms (such as bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites) change after they are exposed to antimicrobial drugs, WHO said.

The UN global health agency listed the antimicrobial drugs to include antibiotics, antifungals, antivirals, antimalarials, and anthelmintics.

“Microorganisms that develop antimicrobial resistance are sometimes referred to as superbugs.

“As a result, the medicines become ineffective and infections persist in the body, increasing the risk of spread to others,” WHO said.

Mohammed said the creation of the UN joint agency group to combat AMR and advise on the global effort was a sign of how seriously the UN Member States were taking the threat.

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She said Member States adopted the Political Declaration of the High-Level Meeting on Antimicrobial Resistance in September 2016, that contained a request for the UN Secretary-General to establish such a body.

Mohammed said AMR is a “multi-sectoral problem” affecting human and animal health, agriculture, as well as the global environment and trade.

“Clean water, sustainable food production and poverty alleviation are but a few of the challenges it poses.

“Many UN agencies will need to engage in this fight, as will other international organisations, non-governmental organisations, civil society, and critically, the general public.”

She welcomed the Secretary-General’s establishment of the group, which would seek to provide practical guidance on the ways to combat AMR and to recommend how global efforts could and should be better coordinated.

The WHO chief, in her statement, said antibiotic resistance was already prolonging illness worldwide, and the political declaration was a vital commitment to help tackle the scourge globally.

Chan said the inter-agency group would support governments across the world, as well as advising on the “use and abuse” of antibiotics for people, and livestock.

She promised that the group, appointed by the Secretary-General, would “get to work right away”.

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