The United Nations (UN) and other international organisations have issued a landmark report demanding immediate, coordinated and multisectoral action to avert a potential global drug-resistance crisis.
In the report, released yesterday, the UN Ad hoc Interagency Coordinating Group on Antimicrobial Resistance (IACG) warns that if action is not taken, drug-resistant diseases could cause 10 million deaths annually by 2050, and damage to the global economy on the same scale as the 2008 global financial crisis.
It further warns that by 2030, antimicrobial resistance could force up to 24 million people into extreme poverty.
Malawi is currently facing challenges with antibiotics resistance and the multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, with experts saying it is increasingly making it difficult to treat some communicable diseases.
Ministry of Health national coordinator for Antimicrobial Resistance Watipaso Kasambara told The Nation in an earlier interview that the problem is huge.
“We are affected as a country, but we have not systematically started collecting data on deaths due to AMR [antimicrobial resistance],” he said.
On his part, Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital laboratory manager Joseph Bango said patients’ easy access to antibiotics in the country is largely contributing to resistance.
“Hospitals have no guidelines on how to administer these drugs in the absence of a proper diagnosis. At the same time, people can access them without prescription because those selling the drugs are more interested in money than [the patients’ health],” he said.
Kasambara, therefore, painted a grim picture of the scenario.
“We are in a critical situation. Imagine, the number of people with HIV- most of them depend on antibiotics to treat opportunistic infections and when they are resistant to drugs, what happens? We are likely to have more deaths from HIV,” he said.
And Malawi is not alone in these challenges.
According to the IACG report, the world is already feeling the economic and health consequences as crucial medicines become ineffective.
It states that globally, at least 700 000 people die each year due to drug-resistant diseases, including 230 000 people who die from multidrug-resistant tuberculosis.
It has since recommended countries to prioritise national action plans to scale-up financing and capacity-building efforts; put in place stronger regulatory systems and support awareness programmes for responsible and prudent use of antimicrobials by professionals in human, animal and plant health; invest in ambitious research and development for new technologies to combat antimicrobial resistance, among others.
In a 2016 report, the World Health Organisation (WHO) identified antibiotic resistance as a serious issue of concern, calling for more action from member States to avert unnecessary deaths.
“The prospect of the world entering a ‘post-antibiotic era’, where common infections can no longer be cured, is therefore a real possibility,” warns the WHO report.