Asean adopts pact on microbial resistance

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Leaders of Association of Southeast Asian Nations member-states have adopted the Declaration on Anti-Microbial Resistance (AMR) as an outcome of the 31st Asean, the Department of Health (DOH) announced last week.

“With the political commitment to combat AMR gathered from the heads of the Aseam member-states, the Declaration was finally adopted on 13 November 2017 in time for the celebration of the 31st Asean Summit,” the DOH said in a statement.

It said leaders of the 10 Asean member-countries have agreed to adopt the “One Health” approach to tackle the pressing issue on AMR that would ensure a holistic, multi-sectoral, and multi-disciplinary approach in combating it at the regional and country levels.

“It’s a one health approach because it does not only concern human health but it will also affect animal health. With Asean, our approach is really to integrate different actions coming from both human and animal health sectors,” DOH spokesperson, medical doctor Lyndon Lee Suy, explained in a recent media briefing.


According to the DOH statement, the adoption of the document is a historic achievement in the Asean that would contribute to the region’s vision of a healthy, caring, sustainable and productive region that is resistant to emerging health threats and has universal access to health care.

Globally, it said, AMR has emerged as one of the serious challenges of the modern world with an alarming increase in rates of drug-resistant infections observed across different regions and countries because of the inappropriate use of anti-microbials in the health, veterinary and agriculture sectors.

In 2014, the World Health Organization warned that without effective action by governments and global leaders, “the world could face a return to the post-antibiotic era where drug-resistant infections overtake cancer as the leading cause of human suffering and death by 2050, threatening the gains achieved with the discovery of antibiotics in the 20th century and the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals, in particular, attaining good health and well-being [goal No. 3].”

Recognizing the threats

The Asean community quickly recognized the importance of taking action against AMR with the increasing incidence of anti-microbial resistance in the region, such as drug-resistant tuberculosis, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, macrolide-resistant Streptococcus pneumoniae, multi-drug-resistant enteric pathogens and extremely drug-resistant Gram-negative bacilli in both hospital and community settings.

“Anti-microbial resistance poses a serious threat not only in the Philippines but also the whole Asean with major implications in health, trade, agriculture, the economy and global security,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque 3rd said in the statement.

He said the DOH was pleased to lead in the initiative as its main contribution in regional health cooperation during its chairmanship.

“The DOH is ready to share our country experience in implementing the one health approach with other Asean member-states that is embodied in our National Action Plan to combat anti-microbial resistance,” Duque added.

In 2015, the DOH formulated the National Action Plan to Combat AMR that brought together key partner agencies, such as the departments of agriculture, trade and industry, and science and technology.

The action plan outlined the country strategies, focusing on the core areas of leadership and governance; surveillance and laboratory capacity; access to essential medicines of assured quality; awareness and promotion; infection prevention and control; rational anti-microbial use among humans and animals; and research and development.

According to the statement, at the regional level, the Philippine government initiated the crafting of the Asean Leaders’ Declaration on AMR, which reflects the commitment of the member states in fighting AMR through the involvement of all relevant stakeholders, including human health, animal health, agriculture, food, trade, and environment sectors.

The initial consultative meeting attended by the AMS technical officers was hosted by the Philippines last May 10-11. Consequently, the Declaration was endorsed to the Seniors Officials’ Meeting on Health Development and was elevated to the Asean Health Ministers Meeting, the Senior Officials Committee for ASCC, and the Asean Socio-cultural Community Council Meeting.

The Asean member-states also agreed to align their AMR initiatives and foster an environment that would enable sharing of best practices across countries.

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