By Tatenda Chimbwanda
Harare, Zimbabwe – There is growing evidence of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) in Zimbabwe. A study conducted by local epidemiologists following the 2018 cholera outbreak concluded that there had been high incidences of drug resistance which made it difficult to contain the disease using the usual antibiotics. The latter, has been a result of Zimbabweans abusing antibiotics due to unregulated consumption and not completing the full course when prescribed by the doctors. Therefore, Zimbabweans need to stop misusing antibiotics and adhere to the full course of treatment when prescribed by the doctor. In addition, doctors also need to prescribe antibiotics with proper medical indication for their use and not give into pressure from the patients.
“In Zimbabwe conversations on AMR must happen every day and everywhere starting from the community that demands and consumes the antimicrobials, in the street and market vendors and cross border traders who avail antimicrobials with little information on their health risks,” explains Dr Portia Manangazira, Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) Epidemiology and Disease Control Director and AMR Chair.
When antimicrobial medicines like antibiotics are misused, abused or overused, bugs become RESISTANT to the medicines used to fight them. It means antimicrobials become ineffective in fighting the micro-organisms that cause diseases. As a result, these medicines then stop working when we need them the most.
“To the patient, AMR is a nightmare, as this means feeling sick, having a high fever, getting the correct treatment and not improving at all for days, and instead getting worse as the drugs become ineffective,” expounds Tapfumanei Mashe, MoHCC National AMR Coordinator.
As a result, The Government of Zimbabwe (GoZ) is leading combined activities through the MoHCC, Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement as well as the Environment, Climate Change, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Ministry to curb the impact posed by AMR. Through its National Action Plan (2017-2022), the GoZ hopes to reduce the impact of antimicrobial medicines in human and animal health.
Consequently, the first milestone Zimbabwe has achieved in addressing the burden of AMR was to develop a multi- sectoral, well costed AMR Plan with all the key activities. With support from UK Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), Fleming Fund Grants Programme, GoZ is strengthening surveillance through capacity building of the supra-national laboratories. This is being done under the three leading ministries which are collecting and analysing samples from human, animal and environment sectors.
The results from the data collected will inform policy changes as required. Since the exact national burden of AMR is still under assessment, ascertaining the prevalence of AMR will help the country in implementing context-specific programmes that respond to the needs of the population – human, animal and biodiversity. This process is expected to be completed by 2022.
Moreover, to mark the beginning of World Antibiotic Awareness Week (WAAW) on 18 November 2020, GoZ with support from FAO and WHO conducted an AMR quiz with Collaborative Antimicrobial Resistance Group (SCAMRG) students at the University of Zimbabwe. Afterwards, an AMR jingle was launched and various school children recited poems on the AMR theme and slogan in order to raise awareness and educate communities on the dangers associated with AMR. Also, raising awareness on AMR, is also one of the five strategic pillars under Zimbabwe’s AMR NAP.
“AMR is one of the top 10 global public health threats facing humanity exposing both humans and animals to catastrophic consequences. The statistics are scary: it is has been projected that if nothing is done NOW by 2050, the world will be facing a catastrophe and Africa will lose about 4.1 million lives yearly to AMR attributable deaths and this will consequently result in countries losing an average 2 to 3.5 percent in Gross Domestic Product (GDP),” says Dr Stanley Midzi, WHO Health Systems Strengthening Advisor.