Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is the ability of a microorganism to withstand treatment with an antimicrobial drug. The rapid emergence of AMR has for several decades been a growing threat to the effective treatment of an ever-increasing range of infections caused by bacteria, parasites, viruses and fungi. The magnitude of the problem, the impact of AMR on human health, the costs for the health-care sector and the wider societal impact are potentially immense.

Globally, it is estimated that AMR will be responsible for upto 10 million deaths annually by 2050 if nothing is done to contain and prevent its spread [1]. Therefore, AMR is currently a major emerging international public health concern with potential to slow down human development (SDG-3).

In Zambia, like in many other countries, there is emerging evidence of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in several pathogens. The University Teaching Hospital, the highest-level hospital in Zambia has been detecting multi-drug resistant pathogens, resistant to the first, second and third line antimicrobial agents which has left very limited options for antimicrobial therapy for infectious diseases. Superbugs, which are difficult to treat have been detected, these include pathogens such as Methicillin Resistant Staphylococci (MRSA), Extended Spectrum Beta-lactamase producing Klebsiella pneumoniae, and other multidrug resistant enterobacteria. High resistance to most antibiotics used to treat serious conditions such as blood stream infections have been reported. Resistance as high as 80% ciprofloxacin, ceftriaxone 90%, and Gentamicin 70%, has been reported in some blood stream strains with very limited expensive options for therapy [2]

Because antimicrobial resistant organisms have the potential to move between food producing animals and humans by direct exposure or through the food chain or the environment, AMR is therefore, a multi-sectoral problem encompassing the interface between humans, animals and the environment [3]. The fact that human and veterinary health, food and feed production systems and agro-ecological environments all contribute to and are affected by AMR, indicates the need for multi-sectoral and multi-dimensional “One Health” approach to curb its occurrence. The FAO/OIE/WHO tripartite, together with public and private organizations, share responsibilities for addressing global activities regarding AMR at the animal-human-ecosystem interfaces.
Zambia has adopted this “One Health” approach and, over the past one year, there has been activities being undertaken to develop a multisectoral National Action Plan (NAP) to combat and stop the spread of AMR. The NAP is intended to institute strategic interventions in all key sectors relevant to this fight, that is, the human, animal, plant, and environment sectors. Currently, a nationwide situation analysis study is underway to establish the baseline in all sectors in terms of antimicrobial use and assess capacity to carrying out effectively AMR related control and mitigation measures.
It is expected that the findings from the situation analysis will be utilized in finalizing the NAP, which is due to be presented to the World Health Assembly (WHA) in May 2017, by the Minister of Health.