World Antimicrobial Awareness Week 2021

Dr Matshidiso Moeti, Regional Director for Africa, WHO

Message of WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti

On 18–24 November, the African Region joins the global community in commemorating World Antimicrobial Awareness Week to draw attention to the dangers of misusing antibiotics and other antimicrobials.

This year’s theme is “spread awareness, stop resistance” to encourage the public, and stakeholders across sectors – in human, animal and environmental health – to champion action against this major public health threat.

Antimicrobial resistance occurs when medicines no longer work as they should against communicable diseases, because microbes adapt and protect themselves, leading to drug-resistant infections. 

In the WHO African Region, more than half of all deaths are caused by communicable diseases that are treated by antimicrobials. The threat of resistance therefore puts at risk decades of progress in controlling malaria, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and sexually transmitted infections, among others.

To sustain gains against infectious diseases and strengthen health systems, WHO is supporting action to combat antimicrobial resistance. In the past 12 months, eight countries have enrolled in the WHO Global Antimicrobial Resistance and Use Surveillance System (GLASS), bringing the total number of participating African countries to thirty-two. This system helps to improve the availability of information for decision-making and to support capacity-building.

Trainings on antimicrobial resistance are ongoing for health workers, including as part of the COVID-19 response, to raise awareness of the risks of inappropriate prescribing or dispensing of medicines, and the importance of hygiene practices to prevent the spread of infections. 

In a first-of-its-kind training, in November 2020, 170 regulatory inspectors from all countries in the African Region learned how to integrate action against antimicrobial resistance into regulatory and manufacturing product inspections. This will help to strengthen regulatory and manufacturing systems to address antimicrobial resistance. In addition, to enhance routine testing of the performance of antimicrobials, Togo has implemented a mentorship programme for public and private microbiology laboratories.

Many African countries have developed national action plans on antimicrobial resistance, and to improve implementation of these plans WHO recently developed a new WHO costing and budgeting tool. Use of this tool will help to raise domestic and partner resources towards combatting antimicrobial resistance. 

To celebrate World Antimicrobial Awareness Week this year, in partnership with the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, the World Organisation for Animal Health, Africa CDC, the African Union Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources, and the UN Environment Programme, WHO is organizing the African Region’s third joint campaign. This year’s virtual event with partners and governments will focus on improving governance and the shared responsibility for preventing antimicrobial resistance. 

Government actions to bring together different stakeholders will be critical, including establishing dedicated national structures, platforms and budgets, and partnering with the private sector to limit the use of antibiotics in livestock and aquafarming, and to improve water and sanitation infrastructure to limit the spread of infections.

Finally, as individuals, we all play a role in stopping antimicrobial resistance. The key is to only use medicines as prescribed by a licenced health professional and be sure to take the full prescribed course. 

Misuse and abuse of antimicrobials puts us all at risk, so let us do our best to spread awareness and stop resistance.

Learn more:

Clinical management of COVID-19 interim guidance 27 May 2020 (provides guidance for clinicians caring for COVID-19 patients including AMS recommendations such as when it is/ when it is not warranted to give COVID-19 patients antibiotic treatment). 

Preventing and managing antimicrobial resistance in the African region: A scoping review protocol, 2021

Global Leaders Group on Antimicrobial Resistance: Financing To Address Antimicrobial Resistance

Follow-up to the political declaration of the high-level meeting of the General Assembly on antimicrobial resistance: Report of the Secretary-General, United Nations General Assembly, 2019

No Time to Wait: Securing the future from drug-resistant infections Report to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, 2019

WHO AMR Costing and Budgeting Tool