The World Health Organization is supporting the Federal Government in raising awareness among health workers and Nigerians on the need for caution on antibiotics use to prevent a future public health emergency.
Across the world, experts have been warning for years that antibiotic resistance could be one of the biggest threats to humanity, and Nigeria is not left out as WHO describes it as one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today.
“Using antibiotics such as Amoxil, Tetracyclines to treat cold, cough, boil and other common ailments was a norm for me until I stumbled on an awareness campaign in Utako, Abuja, by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and WHO. I never understood that antibiotics needed to be prescribed by specialists after a test. I have since read more about antibiotic resistance and realised I have been hurting myself and my family by taking drugs without prescription,” says Kemi Balogun, a trader residing in Abuja.
“I now understand the importance of antibiotics and the need to preserve the use for more deadly diseases”, she said.
On 18-24 November, Nigeria joined 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.
WHO noted that a growing number of infections – such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, gonorrhoea, and salmonellosis – are becoming harder to treat as the antibiotics used to treat them become less effective, leading to longer hospital stays, higher medical costs and increased mortality.
In a statement to commemorate the week, the WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, said more than half of all deaths in the WHO African Region are caused by communicable diseases treated by antimicrobials.
Urging the governments and individuals to play a role in stopping antimicrobial resistance, she said the key is to only use medicines as prescribed by a licensed health professional and be sure to take the full prescribed course.
Meanwhile, the threat of resistance 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 a similar vein, the Antimicrobial Resistance Programme Manager, NCDC, Dr Abiodun Egwuenu, said the collaboration between WHO and NCDC in controlling AMR in Nigeria has been producing results.
Dr Egwuenu said WHO supported the national AMR response activities through AMR awareness walks, engaging policymakers, children (spelling bee, debate), Information Education and Communication (IEC) materials production in local and English languages, and production of videos.
WHO also supported in conducting the antibiotic use point prevalence survey in 17 health facilities spread across six states and integrated AMR surveillance, providing data required to raise awareness on this threat and how to prevent it. Nigeria, through NCDC, has been submitting AMR data to the WHO Global AMR Surveillance System since 2017, and resistance detected in priority pathogens retrieved from bloodstream infections.
In line with this year’s theme WHO collaborated with D. Stella Adaddevoh (DRASA), in piloting a behavioural change project for AMR among students from 10 secondary schools in Lagos State. The project produced 320 change ambassadors and revealed that the children too can create awareness for AMR and health hygiene among their peers and family members. Meanwhile, WHO is currently scaling up the project to 20 schools (10) in Lagos State and (10) in Osun state.
Although Nigeria does not have comprehensive data on antimicrobial resistance, a situation analysis conducted by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in 2016 revealed that multidrug-resistant organisms were discovered from common healthcare-associated infections.
The National Action Plan for Antimicrobial Resistance, 2017-2022, found that bad use of antibiotics was common with 42% of adults and 46.7%-71.1% of five years’ children were given antibiotics without prescription, and 68.3% of adults used antibiotics following the prescription.