The Philippine Inter-Agency Committee on Antimicrobial Resistance (ICAMR) and national partners kick off the celebration of the World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW) to enjoin the public to be AMR Awareness Champions

Manila, 18 November 2021 – The Philippine Inter-Agency Committee on Antimicrobial Resistance (ICAMR) and national partners kicked off the celebration of the World Antimicrobial Awareness Week 2021 with a High-level Media Forum to highlight the leadership and support of all relevant sectors at the global (development partners) and national (national agencies) levels in the country’s fight against antimicrobial resistance or AMR.

With the local theme “Kaalaman ay dagdagan, antimicrobial resistance sa gitna ng COVID-19 pandemya ay labanan,” stakeholders across all relevant sectors and the general public are engaged to raise awareness on AMR and to increase recognition of the important roles that they play to encourage behavior change towards the responsible and rational use of antimicrobials in order to mitigate the unintended long-term consequences associated with antibiotic overuse during the pandemic and to avoid future pandemic of AMR.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has likened AMR to a slow-moving tsunami that is crumbling down the pillars of modern medicine, giving an ever-increasing threat to global public health. Recognizing that AMR is a multifaceted problem that requires multi-pronged solutions, the ICAMR partnered with the Southeast Asia One Health University Network (SEAOHUN), Philippine One Health University Network (PhilOHUN), and development partners, WHO and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), to enjoin all relevant sectors in organizing activities in celebration of the WAAW this year and to encourage a multidisciplinary approach for broadened actions against this complex phenomenon amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The WAAW celebration also aimed to expand the reach of the AMR Advocacy Campaign across all relevant sectors and up to the communities.

The UN Tripartite emphasized the challenges of misuse of antimicrobials in all sectors. “Inappropriate use of antimicrobials exacerbates selection of naturally occurring resistant microorganisms and is therefore clearly a driver for the emergence of resistance strengths,” said Dr. Ronello Abila, Sub-regional Representative in South-East Asia, World Organisation of Animal Health (OIE)

The Department of  Agriculture also warned the public against the misuse and overuse of antimicrobials in animals, especially food-producing animals. “Antibiotics are one of the most important tools in our efforts to safeguard human health, improve food production, and alleviate the plight of the poor. The threat of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) is both far-reaching and profound. The careless and excessive use of antibiotics in food-producing animals can result in resistant bacteria not only in livestocks but also in the people who consume meat and poultry products,” said Agriculture Secretary Wiliam Dar.

AMR also affects the environment, Undersecretary Atty. Juan Miguel T. Cuna of the DENR Field Operations and Environment said, “Important policy measures that target specific high risk environments with elevated concentrations of antibiotics such as waste-water treatment plants, hospitals, healthcare facilities, and pharmaceutical industries are of utmost importance. It is worth reiterating that no sole government agencies or independent organizations can tackle this issue alone. The emergent issue of antibiotic residues and antimicrobial resistance is a complex phenomenon that requires collaborative approaches and efforts from the government, relevant organizations and stakeholders.” He also expressed his support and continuous collaboration by  working together and engaging all relevant stakeholders in establishing a sustainable multi sectoral partnership towards a stronger antimicrobial action in the country.

“The slow-growing nature of AMR offers a unique opportunity to proactively develop strategies and interventions to mitigate its impact. This year’s PAAW theme, ‘Kaalaman ay dagdagan, antimicrobial resistance sa gitna ng COVID-19 pandemya ay labanan,’ calls us to not let the ongoing pandemic arrest our efforts to spread awareness on the public health threat of AMR. Instead, we should take stock of lessons learned and opportunities found to examine how global communities can better respond to and prepare for the growth of AMR as a potential global health emergency.” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said in his closing message.

AMR has multi-sectoral impacts and thus, each and every member of the society has an important role to play to address this issue. The ICAMR and the UN Tripartite called on the public to be AMR Awareness Champions. “We recognize that everyone can be an antimicrobial resistance awareness champion, we urge you to become champions. Just like COVID-19, antimicrobial resistance is a health security crisis that is most silent within populations and knows no boundaries. To preserve the health gains of the past century, we will need to take collective and coordinated action. We must act now to prevent drug-resistant infections from becoming the next global public health emergency,” WHO Representative to the Philippines Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe said.

“We enjoin stakeholders across all sectors to raise awareness about this looming threat among our families, workplaces, institutions, and communities. In order to mitigate the unintended long-term consequences associated with antibiotic overuse and avoid a future AMR pandemic, we must act upon our responsibilities in promoting behaviour change towards the prudent and rational use of antimicrobials.” Health Secretary Duque said.

The Philippine ICAMR is co-chaired by the Department of Health (DOH) and Department of Agriculture (DA) and consists of members from relevant national agencies such as the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Department of Internal and Local Government (DILG), and Department of Science and Technology (DOST). Efforts to expand its membership to include the DENR, DepEd, CHED, and TESDA are also underway. The WAAW, locally celebrated as Philippine Antimicrobial Awareness week (PAAW), is observed on November 18-24 every year. The Philippines has been actively participating in this global activity since 2015. Despite the restrictions brought about by the pandemic, the government maximized the use of online platforms to strengthen and bring the campaign closer to all relevant stakeholders and to improve awareness of the public on antimicrobial resistance in the midst of the pandemic.