Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a natural phenomenon in which microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites adapt to antimicrobial agents and render drugs ineffective for their curative purpose.
Over the past two years, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Zimbabwe, with the support of funding partners and the Government, has embarked on strengthening Zimbabwe‘s AMR surveillance capacity by renovating and equipping 14 laboratories in three provinces. This process is part of the implementation of Zimbabwe‘s National Action Plan (NAP) for AMR, which was developed in 2017.
“I would like to reiterate FAO‘s commitment to continue providing technical support to the Zimbabwean government and its various agencies. I take this opportunity to encourage you to emphasize the application of the One Health approach and find more innovative approaches to mobilize resources to finance AMR interventions, maintain and scale up the results achieved so far,” said Berhanu Bedane, FAO Livestock Development Officer speaking on behalf of Patrice Talla, FAO Sub-Regional Coordinator for Southern Africa and FAO Representative in Zimbabwe.
In Zimbabwe, FAO, in partnership with the Ministry of Land, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development (MoLAFWRD) through the Department of Veterinary Services (DVS ) the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) and the Ministry of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry (MECTHI) formulated a One Health approach specifically to strengthen multi-sectoral platforms on antimicrobial resistance, emerging diseases and food safety by building collaborations and coordination with various stakeholders.
From 9 to 13 May 2022, FAO representatives, government officials, development partners, clinicians, scientists, farmers and the general public witnessed the commissioning and handover of six rehabilitated sentinel laboratories that were renovated and equipped with state-of-the-art equipment in Manicaland, Masvingo. and the Bulawayo provinces in Zimbabwe, two in each province.
The laboratory rehabilitation process began in 2019, when the country named 14 priority laboratories to participate in pilot national AMR surveillance using an integrated One Health approach. This was followed by capacity assessments that guided the formulation of technical specifications on the scope of works for the rehabilitation of infrastructure, acquisition of equipment and reagents.
A public bidding system was carried out to identify suppliers with the participation of all relevant stakeholders to ensure transparency and full compliance with agreed specifications. Following the contracting of the contractor, the work began with close monitoring and supervision by the Government Department of Public Works until the completion of the renovations.
“In 2017, Zimbabwe developed the National One Health AMR Action Plan aligned with the Global AMR Action Plan. In developing the plan, the country carried out an exhaustive analysis of the situation of AMR and AMU, which among other weaknesses and gaps identified in our AMR surveillance systems, the situation and conditions of our laboratories was dismal. We appreciate the intervention of this program in the rehabilitation of the laboratories”, said Dr. Nyika, Chief Director of the Department of Veterinary Services.
“The laboratories have not only been renovated but updated to international standards. These laboratories will be perfected to obtain ISO17025 accreditation”, added Dr. Nyika during one of the commissioning ceremonies in the three provinces.
The renovation and equipment of laboratories is an intermediate intervention, which contributes to the objective of strengthening the country’s capacity in AMR surveillance. However, the ultimate goal is to ensure the generation of AMR data and its subsequent use by the country to monitor resistance patterns, inform policy, and contribute to global monitoring databases.
This will also feed into and direct the formulation of the framework for the second phase of the National Action Plan, 2022 – 2027. In addition to this milestone, there will be constant and frequent development of human resource diagnostic capacity, quality improvement management, data management and reporting on AMR.
In addition, FAO will continue to provide technical assistance in the implementation and compliance of laboratories with biosafety and biosecurity measures to enable them to meet international standards and obtain ISO accreditation relevant to their field of work.
“The country has made significant progress in the practical implementation of an integrated One Health approach in its fight against AMR, thus breaking down the sectoral silos and vertical approaches that existed in the past. The nation stands ready to make a significant mark in its fight against AMR through these effective cross-sector collaborations.
We can hope that this momentum can also trickle down to other One Heath pillars, including food safety and zoonoses,” said Dr. Dobbie, Chief Director of the MoHCC as the Bulawayo lab start-up concluded the handover processes. in the three provinces.
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