Challenges posed by AMR in Africa

Fitzgerald Munyoro

Antibiotic drugs play a critical role in reducing the burden of communicable diseases all over the world, especially in Africa.

However, the curative power of infectious disease by drugs or drug efficacy is not infinite. The continued use of these immobilized drugs then leads to the development of a phenomenon known as Anti-Microbial resistance (AMR).

 Antimicrobial resistance threatens the effectiveness of successful treatment of infections and is a public health issue with national and global dimensions.

In low-income countries, AMR frequently occurs in pathogens that are likely to be transmitted in the community such as organisms causing pneumonia, diarrheal diseases, tuberculosis (TB), sexually transmitted diseases and malaria.

Drug resistance has dramatically increased the costs of fighting TB and malaria, and slowed gains against childhood dysentery and pneumonia. It also threatens the push to treat people living with HIV/AIDS effectively.

Despite limited laboratory capacity to monitor AMR, available data suggest that the African Region shares the worldwide trend of increasing drug resistance. Significant resistance has, for example, been reported for diseases such as cholera, dysentery, typhoid, meningitis, gonorrhea, TB, malaria and AIDS.

Other far reaching factors also contribute to the rise of AMR in Africa.

Major challenges include lack of a comprehensive policy and plan to address AMR; weak medicines regulatory capacity and circulation of substandard/ counterfeit antimicrobials; lack of AMR surveillance strategies; weak laboratory capacity on AMR testing and reporting; lack of essential laboratory reagents and consumables; and limited quality assurance and control protocols.

Leaders from African Nations have not been able to consolidate a solid plan to counteract the effects of antimicrobial resistance

Economic challenges have also meant low income African nations will face difficulties in procuring latest medicines.

The medicines supply and distribution systems in most countries of the Region are fragmented and weak. This situation increases the opportunities for infiltration of substandard and counterfeit medicines into the supply chain.

Inadequate access to basic health services coupled with shortages and frequent stockout of essential medicines including antimicrobials in public health facilities could lead patients to look for other sources usually through illicit sources of supply, which usually deal with substandard/counterfeit medicines.

Furthermore, there has been an erratic regional attempt to come up with viable theoretical frameworks to help counter the effects of AMR.

Zimbabwe has been a bright spot in this area, after the Global Action Plan (GAP) on Antimicrobial Resistance by the 68th World Health Assembly in May 2015, Zimbabwe immediately put in place a framework towards developing the AMR National Action Plan by starting with a situational analysis to help understand the situation around AMR and any efforts to contain it that were in place.

However, the lack of a joint effort by regional counterparts will render it’s effortless fruitless.

A study conducted in 2020  by the World Health Organization projected that if the effects of AMR are not addressed urgently then the eradication of conditions like HIV&AIDS, Tuberculosis and sexually transmitted diseases will remain a pipedream.

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