Asia Pacific Sounds Antibiotic Alarm

Default Profile ImageBen O'Connell
Asia Pacific Sounds Antibiotic Alarm

Health leaders from Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific regions have sounded the alarm and have committed to working together to tackle antimicrobial resistance (AMR) more effectively.

They endorsed a joint position paper on AMR in the human health sector in the Asia-Pacific region at an event held on the sidelines of the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland.

The misuse and overuse of antimicrobials − especially antibiotics − in humans, animals, and plants are driving the rise of drug-resistant infections. This makes common infections harder to treat and medical procedures and treatments, such as surgery and chemotherapy, much riskier. 

The Growing Threat of Antibiotic Resistance

Other factors contributing to the emergence and spread of drug-resistant infections include a lack of clean water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) and inadequate infection prevention and control.

These promote the spread of microbes that are resistant to treatment in health facilities and communities.

AMR is a rising threat to health and development globally and to countries and areas of the WHO South-East Asia and Western Pacific Regions − home to nearly half of the world’s population.

In 2019, AMR was the cause of an estimated 700,000 deaths in the two regions, representing more than half of the global deaths caused by AMR.

Beyond the immediate threat to human health, AMR also threatens global and national economies. For instance, unless it can be effectively addressed, countries and areas of the WHO Western Pacific Region are expected to face excess economic costs of up to US$148 billion due to AMR between 2020 and 2030.

“The endorsement of this joint position paper by 25 countries and areas across the Asia-Pacific region shows their determination to lead global efforts to tackle this fundamental threat to health and economies,” said Dr Saia Ma’u Piukala, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific.

World Leaders Committed

World leaders recognise the urgency of addressing antimicrobial resistance. “To address the urgent issue of AMR, which is referred to as a ‘silent pandemic’, we have to further accelerate international cooperation and leadership in response to it,” said Mr Shiozaki Akihisa, Parliamentary Vice-Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare, Japan.

Ms Saima Wazed, WHO Regional Director for Southeast Asia, described the action taken: “This week, health ministers at the World Health Assembly will discuss how to accelerate the response to AMR.

“By making this commitment today, and taking it to the United Nations General Assembly High-Level Meeting on AMR in September, countries from Asia and the Pacific are making clear that they recognise the urgency of action, and they are demonstrating commitment to drive change from our part of the world.”