Recently, stakeholders from diverse backgrounds met at a resort in Paynesville to discuss how Liberia can prevent or reduce Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR).
The meeting was aimed at creating awareness about AMR among the various relevant stakeholders to strategize ways in reducing the menace.
AMR is the misuse of antibiotics in agriculture, food production, especially in humans and animals which are the predominant factors of the emergence and spread of the menace in the world.
According to the National AMR Focal Person in Liberia, Pharmacist Diana K. Gahn Smith, the workshop was intended to bring together key stakeholders from various sectors to make decisions on the prevention and control of antimicrobial resistance;
“This meeting reached the decision to identify three thematic areas. We were able to set those areas and defined their roles to come with an action plan. Also, we have the technical working group that is charged to put together coordination mechanisms,” she said.
She said that Liberia has developed a National Action Plan (NAP) to implement the activities of the AMR, something she stated that it will require the country to invest about US$29 million for the next five years.
Pharmacist Smith said currently, there is no funds allocated, but the government is coordinating with partners for AMR implementation.
She said funding to implement the activities mainly derives from partners.
“We have not gone anywhere yet with the implementation of AMR activities. For full AMR activities implementation, there should be budgetary allotment by the government,” she explained.
According to her, the WHO has considered AMR as a Global threat and there is a need that Liberia focuses more on combating the effect of AMR.
“According to statistics from WHO, research shows that 10 million persons will die from AMR by 2050. So, to adjust this threat, that is the reason why AMR is looked at from a one health approach. It requires a one health approach for stakeholders to come together to prevent or control AMR”, she said.
Pharmacist Smith said that the NAP action plan was validated and launched in 2018, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the implementation of the AMR activities were delayed.
“We actually started implementing the activities in 2019, but it was stalled due to the coronavirus situation,” she added.
“We intended to conduct knowledge, attitude and practice (KAP) survey, but the process was challenged as the result of CVID-19. However, despite the situation, we are intending to begin implementation of many of the activities this year,” she noted.
The AMR Focal Person further said that Liberia is always among other nations of the world to create awareness on AMR in November of every year.
“The Global concern to highlight the importance of awareness on AMR takes place in November. We bring together stakeholders from many sectors, where we have radio talk shows to create awareness on AMR, under the one health platform,” she said.
She, however, said that stakeholders are not going to wait until November to create awareness.
“We will begin creating awareness in the various communities and schools so that people can gain knowledge on AMR,” she added.
Pharmacist Smith warned that health issues should not be politicized and the stakeholders should be willing to coordinate well on AMR activities.
Dr. Fatima Soud, Senior Global Health Security Agenda Advisor for USAID, said that the U.S government remains committed in supporting the health care delivery of Liberia.
According to her, within one year period, the U.S government invests around US$1 million to improve laboratories, supply chains, risk communications which are some of the AMR activities.
Madam Soud stressed the need for the various stakeholders to work harder in moving the AMR activities in the country.
For her part, the Country Director of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Mariatou Njie said that as a result of the threat that AMR has created globally, FAO in collaboration with the WHO adopted the Global action plan to control the menace.
She said that the Global action plan recommends a multi-sectoral approach from a one health perspective which Liberia has been able to replicate through the development of the NAP.
According to Madam Njie, FAO under the USAID-funded Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) facilated a situational analysis study on AMR in Liberia that recommended increase participation of all relevant stakeholders in implementing the NAP.
Also speaking, Eddie Miaway Farngalo, Director/Epidemiologist at the Central Veterinary Epidemiologist Unit of the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) said that AMR is a serious issue when it comes to animal health in Liberia.
Accordinging to him, the MoA is working to tackle the menace of AMR through the one health platform approach.
“We know antimicrobial residues are very dangerous to animal health. So we have taken the AMR surveillance in the animal sector by taking the particles to the lab to test them for residues. We are doing this by collaborating with other partners,” he stated.
Farngalo said that his ministry is lacking both the human and resource capacity to tackle AMR.
According to him, the spread of the AMR greatly derives from the use of antibiotics in animals which leads to the consumption by humans.
“If you just give animal antibiotics and have it killed in two weeks, it seriously affects those who consume that product. The effect is not on the animal, but the human that has accumulated the drug over time,” he explained.
He said the best thing to be done is to reduce the usage of antibiotics in animals in the sector.