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Kenya targets farmers in antibiotics resistance war


The government has been promoting responsible and prudent use of veterinary medicinal products. FILE PHOTO | NMG



  • State believes creating awareness among livestock farmers abusing the crucial human life-saving drugs is the best line of defence.

It is estimated that the misuse of antibiotics, which is rampant in Kenya, would have caused deaths of 10 million people worldwide by 2050 as a result of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR).

The abuse of antibiotics in Kenya represents an increasing global concern for the public health and agriculture sector, which has so far been linked to resistance to some illnesses.

The move has seen different agencies come up with measures aimed at prevention and containment of AMR.

The misuse has contributed to accelerated development of AMR microorganisms that cause infections and diseases.

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary (CS) Mwangi Kiunjuri said animal health, welfare and performance and productivity extensively rely on antimicrobial products for treatment, prevention and control of diseases.

“The emergence of antimicrobial resistance therefore poses a critical threat to animal health in view of the low level of development of new antimicrobial for the animal sector in poor countries,” said Mr Kiunjuri.

The CS said the agriculture sector had a significant role to play in the control of AMR in Kenya. Through prudent use of veterinary medicinal products, Mr Kiunjuri said Kanya can reduce harmful effects on animal health, food and environmental safety as well as international trade.

“My Ministry remains committed to promoting responsible and prudent use of veterinary medicinal products and will continue to support efforts towards monitoring of the existence or development of antimicrobial resistance,” he said.

The UK government through the Fleming Fund is helping Kenya in strengthening the surveillance systems for antimicrobial resistance and antimicrobial use.

The fund will help in generating relevant data to better understand the scale and scope of the problem and inform policy interventions and resource allocation.

Victor Yamo, an official with the World Animal Protection (WAP) said the organisation was raising awareness with consumers over the misuse of antibiotics and the danger that it poses on their health.

Dr Yamo blamed the abuse on weak regulations where farmers have been let free to buy antibiotics over the counter, hence leading to misuse.

He added that antibiotics from animals get to humans through meat, milk or eggs if consumed just after the animals have been treated and products taken to the market before the withdrawal period.

“We have farmers who take their products to the market before the withdrawal dates and this is how consumers end up ingesting these antibiotics,” said Dr Yamo.

He advised that the relevant government agencies should stop farmers from treating their own animals and instead have the work done by qualified and licensed veterinary.

“The use of ethical products such as antibiotics should be left in the hands of qualified personnel. This is one way of ending the misuse of these drugs,” he said.

WAP, he said, is also raising awareness at the producers’ level where they educate farmers on the best way to take care of their animals as a precautionary measure to stop them from falling sick, hence putting them at risk of using antibiotics.

He said WAP was pushing for antibiotic free production of animals, which is a world standard that will play a very important role in the fight against AMR.

Dr Yamo also pointed out that with the emergence of global food chains in the country, farmers stood to lose as multinationals stick to international standards where they reject any product that has traces of antibiotics.

Regional representative for World Health Organisation (WHO) Rudi Eggers said AMR endangers health security and progress towards universal health coverage, by threatening to reverse medical advances of the twentieth century.

“It reduces our ability to treat diseases such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, gonorrhoea and cancer. AMR also threatens our ability to conduct surgeries and to care for premature babies,” said Dr Eggers.

This silent pandemic is already leading to 700,000 deaths worldwide each year — left unchecked, AMR could cause up to 10 million deaths annually by 2050, according to WHO.

People living in developing countries and those in fragile contexts- affected by conflict and violence- are particularly vulnerable.

“We are seeing high resistance of common pathogens to antibiotics such as 98 percent of fluoroquinolone-resistant Escherichia coli, meaning that treatment options for people with infections are becoming increasingly limited,” he said.

The official said that key challenges in combating AMR include weak regulatory systems facilitating proliferation of substandard and falsified medicines, limited implementation of standards for clean water, sanitation and hygiene, and to prevent and control infections and lack of reliable data.

Dr Eggers said WHO and partners are working with countries to address these challenges by implementing “One Health” national action plans.

“These plans bring together different sectors and disciplines to build stronger regulatory systems, to improve surveillance, and to develop policies to promote appropriate antibiotic use among humans, and in livestock and agriculture,” he said.