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A conversation on a global development problem: Antibiotic resistance

On the margins of World Health Assembly in Geneva last week, the Foundation organised an event on antibiotic resistance together with ReAct and the South Centre.

Earlier this year, the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation and ReAct – Action on Antibiotic Resistance – published the report When the Drugs Don’t Work: Antibiotic Resistance as a Global Development Problem to present concrete examples on how antibiotic resistance is jeopardising the achievement of many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  Why antibiotic resistance must be addressed as a development problem was the topic of an event hosted at the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS)’s ‘Health Innovation Exchange Marketplace’. In the conversation ReAct Europe’s Andreas Sandgren, ReAct Africa’s Mirfin Mpundu, and the moderator Viviana Muñoz-Tellez from the South Centre covered the challenges that countries face in their work to address antibiotic resistance.

we are racing against time

Andreas Sandgren stressed that there was a missed opportunity to include antibiotic resistance in the SDGs’ targets and indicators. With antibiotics starting to lose their effectiveness due to resistant infections, the alarming effects are far-reaching for the development of societies. Unless decisive and rapid action is taken globally and systematically the challenge will only get worse. For this purpose, viewing antibiotic resistance as a development problem provides opportunities to find solutions. To address antibiotic resistance through the work on global development and system strengthening.

A proposal

Mirfin Mpundu identified the importance of a centrally positioned focal point for antibiotic resistance. This person, with a designated role to coordinate the work on antibiotic resistance across sectors, can carry forward the work of not only developing a National Action Plan, but also coordinate the implementation of it. In many countries this is missing due to the lack of financial means, and in general there is a lack of financed National Action Plans. Therefore, there is a need to mobilise national and global support, both technical and financial, to move this critical work forward.

Safe and affordable vaccines for all

Incorporating an antibiotic resistance perspective in national development agendas, can be one of the means to work on strengthening national systems. Just as important, it will work toward the goals of both reaching the SDGs and addressing the antibiotic resistance problem. The theme of the World Health Assembly this year was ‘Universal Health Coverage: leaving no-one behind’. Achieving Universal Health Coverage is directly linked to access to safe, effective, quality, and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all. Given the global distribution of infectious diseases, the emergence of antibiotic resistance creates a major hurdle for establishing universal health coverage globally, and no health system will be sustainable without effective antibiotics.