Commonwealth leaders have met to discuss anti-microbial resistance (AMR) and the serious threat it poses to human, animal, plant and environmental health, as well as food safety and food security.
The event, which was convened by the Global Leaders Group (GLG) on Anti-Microbial Resistance, took place on the margins of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Kigali, Rwanda.
It was moderated by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Health of Malta, Christopher Fearne MP, who engaged in a lively panel discussion of leaders on the political actions needed to address the global AMR crisis.
The leaders noted that anti-microbial resistance is spreading rapidly worldwide and has been considered the next pandemic.
A recent Lancet publication has revealed that anti-microbial resistant infections have caused 1.27 million deaths and were associated with 4.95 million deaths in 2019 – a figure which is greater than the number of people who died from HIV/AIDS and malaria that year combined.
Part of the discussions centred around the consequences of inaction on AMR, and the acknowledgement that AMR is not just a health issue, but also an economic one.
Attendants explored the economic losses that are likely to be caused as a result of the rising AMR, with estimates ranging from 1.1 to 3.8 per cent of annual gross domestic product (GDP) by 2050, and the potential to place millions of people at risk of poverty.
Leaders also agreed that combatting AMR requires a coordinated approach to trigger action across the human, animal, plant, and environmental sectors. The approach will include:
- Developing, strengthening, and implementing fully-funded, multisectoral AMR National Action Plans based on a One Health approach supported by domestic financing and investment cases across all sectors.
- Integrating the risks of AMR into trade and tourism policy including aligning regional policy and agreements to reduce the economic and public health costs of AMR.
- Supporting programmes, policies and legislation that drive innovation and incentives for research and development of new antimicrobials.
Speaking at the event, the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said: “The growing threat of AMR threatens to send us back to the time before antibiotics, when even a routine injury could kill. Already, AMR is estimated to lead to 5 million deaths every year.
“That is why we can only truly address the major health challenges of our time with a One Health approach. As COVID-19 has demonstrated, shared global threats require a shared response.
“AMR has impacts for every sector, and every sector must be engaged in the response: the public and private sectors, across health, agriculture and environment.”
Members of the Commonwealth Youth Health Network (CYHN) were also in attendance and noted the need for a global youth movement to accelerate action in the fight against AMR.
The CHOGM is bringing together leaders to discuss on the most pressing hurdles members from across the Commonwealth are facing.