By Vivian Mugarisi
Bulawayo, Zimbabwe – The Government of Zimbabwe has commenced updating its antimicrobial resistance (AMR) National Action Plan (NAP) 2023-2027, to replace the previous NAP (2017-2021) which had lapsed. The process is being led by the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC), Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water, Climate and Rural Development and the Ministry of Environment with support from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO). The review provides an opportunity to assess the impact of activities carried out during the last five years and assist with developing evidence-based policies and decisions and evaluate procedures and indicators that could be adopted to achieve strategic objectives within the new plan. Updating NAP will help determine the necessary interventions to address AMR, leaning on a comprehensive “One Health” approach and promoting cooperation and coordination between sectors at the national level.
“The review is a demonstration of the Government of Zimbabwe’s commitment towards combatting AMR. This review will also help the country to secure additional resources to support the implementation of AMR activities,” says MoHCC Public Health Chief Director Dr Munyaradzi Dobbie.
The use of NAPs, which have well-defined goals, strategies, and policies as well as frameworks, is essential in the fight against AMR. Zimbabwe was one of the first African countries to put in place its NAP with the objective of reducing the drug resistance index standing at 66.6 per cent against a benchmark of 25 per cent.
During the implementation of the old NAP, a number of achievements were noted. Through FAO and WHO the country received The Fleming Fund and the Multi-Partner Trust Fund (MPTF) grants to support several activities including training staff and AMR champions, strengthening the AMR governance structures, building laboratory capacity within the animal, environment and human health sectors: strengthening biosecurity and biosafety as well as improving diagnostic stewardship on AMR.
Fourteen laboratories were renovated and equipped with modern equipment and reagent, thanks to financial support from the Fleming Fund. The Biomedical Research and Training Institute (BRTI) and WHO were responsible for providing technical guidance during renovation of the seven human health laboratories. Through the MPTF grant, a vaccine was also developed as an alternative to the irrational use of antibiotics for theileriosis in cattle. Furthermore, the National IPC Policy and Strategic Action Plan and the National IPC guidelines and training programme were developed to strengthen evidence-based practices to address the transmission of AMR. In addition, WHO trained 60 trainers to support the introduction of WHONET software, an essential data tool for the management and analysis of microbiology laboratory data with a special focus on the analysis of antimicrobial susceptibility test results. WHO is currently coordinating the creation of a One Health Dashboard by integrating laboratory information systems from all the One Health sectors in Zimbabwe for real-time sharing of data.
“The momentum is now there, and it is important for the Government of Zimbabwe to keep building on these achievements to deal with AMR,” said Dr Stanley Midzi, WHO Zimbabwe Health Systems Strengthening Technical Officer.
The United Nations, through FAO and WHO continues to support the Government of Zimbabwe to reducing the drug resistance index and strengthening the ONE Health Initiative. The following areas are being supported; implement action of national plans, developing guidance, advice and tools and gathering data and evidence to shape policies and drive action.