Zambia shows leadership in Africa in containing antimicrobial resistance

Minister of Health and other dignitaries attend workshop in Lusaka, organised jointly by CSE and the Antimicrobial Resistance Coordinating Committee of Zambia (AMRCC) led by the Zambia National Public Health Institute (ZNPHI)

Lusaka, January 22-24, 2020: Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), the India-based think tank, and the Antimicrobial Resistance Coordinating Committee of Zambia (AMRCC) led by the Zambia National Public Health Institute (ZNPHI), jointly organised a pan-Africa workshop on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) here. The ZNPHI is the disease intelligence arm of the Ministry of Health in Zambia. 

Zambia is implementing its National Action Plan (NAP) on AMR; the plan was launched in 2017. CSE and AMRCC-ZNPHI released a set of reports at the workshop – these reports are aimed at guiding the implementation ofthe NAP-AMR. 

The event was inaugurated by Dr Chitalu Chilufya, the Honourable Minister of Health in Zambia.It was attended by other dignitaries including Mr N J Gangte, the Indian High Commissioner to Zambia; Dr Benson Mwenya, the Permanent Secretary-Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock of Zambia; Dr Nathan Bakyaita, Country Representative of WHO in Zambia; Dr George Okech, Country Representative of FAO in Zambia; Dr Victor Mukonka, Director of ZNPHI; and Bernice Mwale, Director General of the Zambia Medicines Regulatory Authority. 

At the workshop, the government of Zambia showcased its progress and commitment towards implementation of its NAP-AMR.The inaugural session witnessed the release of the four major reports from Zambia,and of a special story on AMR in India and Africapublished in Down To Earthmagazine. These reports were developed by the Antimicrobial Resistance Coordination Committee (AMRCC) and CSE through a consultative process with stakeholders. The reports reflect Zambia’s prioritised National Action Plan on AMR framework for integrated AMR surveillance, baseline information for AMR surveillance and a roadmap to phase out non-therapeutic use and critically important antibiotics in food-animals. 

In his opening address, Dr Chilufya said: “Zambia prioritizes health security as an important national agenda and AMR should be considered as an important part of public health security. It will challenge the aspirations of Universal Health Coverage. ”He urged all the countries represented at the workshop to complete their National Action Plans and implement them. Referring to the key causes of AMR being abuse and misuse of antibiotics, the Honourable Minister called on everyone to move forward in the spirit of one health and mitigate the wrong use of antibiotics. 

Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR), particularly antibiotic resistance, is one of the biggest public health threats of modern times, which is expected to heavily impact low and middle income countries. With antibiotics becoming ineffective, even common infections are becoming difficult to treat. Rising AMR is putting gains made by medical interventions at risk and leading to longer hospital stays, expensive treatments and higher economic burden on individuals and nations. 

AMR can also impact food safety, nutrition security, livelihood and attainment of Sustainable Development Goals. The major contributors to AMR include misuse of antibiotics in human health and food production along with poor management of waste from factories, healthcare settings, farms and community settings. 

CSE and Zambia’s AMRCC have been collaborating through the ZNPHI for about two years to help implement Zambia’s multi-sectoral national action plan on AMR. Recognising CSE’s role, Mr Gangtesaid: “CSE is one of India’s premier think-tanks working in the area of environment and development. I am happy that they are making a positive contribution to public health strengthening in Zambia through this association.”

Dr Mukonka, who is also the chairperson of AMRCC, said: “We have partnered with colleagues from CSE in India since 2018 and the relationship has grown stronger.” 

The workshop is being attended by AMR focal points and government representatives from human-health, animal and  environmental sectors of Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe who are expected to benefit from the three-day long discussions based around what Zambia has done. It is also attended by journalists from five African countries who shared their experiences from the ground and got to know what is being done to contain this crisis of AMR. 

It has witnessed active participation from Zambian stakeholders from human-health, animal health, plant, food, drug and environment sectors. Recognising the utmost commitment and collaborative effort of Zambian stakeholders, Amit Khurana, director, food safety and toxins at CSE said: “I congratulate all of them for the One Health spirit displayed throughout this journey. This is truly a multi-sectoral effort. In such a short span, what Zambia has achieved is commendable and sets an example for other countries.” 

“We hope that other countries are able to learn from Zambian experiences, and use them as they move forward in their NAP implementation efforts,” he added.

For more on this, please connect with Souparno Banerjee at The CSE Media Resource Centre –