The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Mohammad Abubakar, has warned against the inappropriate use of antimicrobials and called on Nigerians to maintain good practices that will limit the emergence and spread of resistant infections globally.
He made this call during the flag-off ceremony of this year’s World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW) with the theme ‘Spread Awareness, Stop Resistance’ today (November 18) in Abuja.
The minister noted that Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) in recent times has been considered one of the most important threats to public health in all parts of the world as it drastically limits our ability to effectively treat common infections in humans and animals.
“It has been projected that, by 2050, AMR could account for up to 10million deaths annually and about 4million of these deaths (representing 40 per cent) are likely to occur in Africa.
“Within the agricultural and food resources sectors, a critical factor that promotes anti-microbial resistance is the slaughter, sale and consumption of animals treated with antimicrobials without observance of the withdrawal period.
“The result is the presence of residues in foods of animal origin such as meat, fish, eggs and milk. It has also been reported that unregulated application of antibiotics and pesticides on crops during cultivation and post-harvest preservation stages can predispose to residues in these products,” he said.
Abubakar further informed that AMR occurs when the disease agents such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites, no longer respond to the action of antimicrobials which are hitherto susceptible and can also occur naturally due to changes in the organism’s gene over time, it is however worsened by inappropriate use of antibiotics such as over-prescription by health workers (human and animal), self-medication, lack of adherence to treatment instructions, poor infection prevention, and control in health care facilities.
He also highlighted other factors that contribute to the emergence of the resistance pathogens to include: non-compliance with recommended biosecurity practices on the farm, lack of awareness and knowledge on antibiotic resistance, absence of regulatory legislation, and lack of enforcement of legislation when available.
The minister stressed that farmers should not use antibiotics to promote growth in animals and that antibiotic should be used in food-producing animals when prescribed by a veterinary professional. He added that vaccinations, biosecurity measures, and good animal husbandry practices are reliable ways of reducing infections and the need to use antibiotics in livestock.
He emphasized the need for relevant professionals, especially veterinarians, physicians, human and animal health workers to use antimicrobial responsibly and prudently.
Abubakar expressed delight at the tremendous milestones being achieved in the implementation of the activities within the five pillars of the National Action Plan(NAP), stating that “this could not have been possible without the productive collaboration of the tripartite sectors of agriculture, health and the environment and also the support of development partners such United State Agency for International Development (USAID), World Health Organization (WHO), Food and Agricultural Organization (UNFAO), UK-AID, Development Alternatives Inc. (DAI), the Fleming Fund and Breakthrough Action”.
In his welcome address, the permanent secretary, Dr. Ernest Umakhihe, represented by the director, Federal Department of Agriculture (FDA), Mrs. Karima Babagida, said the WAAW is held annually from November 18 to 24 to create awareness on the dangers of anti-microbial resistance caused by the abuse of antibiotics.
A statement by Okeh Juliet for the ministry’s director of information, said stakeholders and development partners including the National Reference Lab (NRL), Federal Ministry of Environment, National Center for Disease Control (NCDC), FAO and the Fleming Fund, urged the ministry to intensify its awareness effort towards curbing the spread of AMR in Nigeria, while also pledging its support to continue to partner with the ministry in providing training, technical support.