By Sharon Atieno

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) continues to pose a serious health threat internationally and Kenya is no exception. Despite this, the level of awareness of the condition is still low.

Marking World AMR Awareness Week (WAAW) 2021 in Nairobi, Dr. Rashid Aman, Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) , Ministry of Health in his speech read by Dr. Simon Kibias, noted that there is a rise in cases of AMR in hospitals and communities yet the level of awareness remains low according to an AMR Surveillance report.

“From operational research conducted on public awareness in 2019, levels of awareness on the dangers of AMR are low with 73% of members of the public interviewed indicating they have never heard of the AMR awareness week,” the speech read.

“71% of those interviewed indicating that they trusted doctors who prescribed antibiotics and would move to an alternative if one does not prescribe an antibiotic.”

Dr Simon Kibias reading the CAS’ speech

According to him, this shows the enormous task ahead in advancing the AMR agenda by increasing community level awareness and education.

In line with the WAAW’s theme, Spread awareness, Stop resistance, he noted: “ We cannot fight resistance if people are not aware , empowered and if they do not take action in making the right decisions.”

Dr. Aman added that everyone can and should be an AMR awareness champion, not just the technical experts but also the ordinary citizens who make daily decisions that affect their health.

In commemorating WAAW, which runs from 18th to 24th November, Dr.Kibias on behalf of the CAS, launched the National Integrated Antimicrobial Stewardship Plan 2021-2026, the Monitoring and Evaluation Framework for the National Action Plan, the National Infection Prevention and Control Policy and Strategic Plan 2021 and the Clinicians Handbook on Diagnostic Stewardship.

The launch of the documents in Nairobi

According to Dr. Allan Azegele, AMR focal point person at the Directorate of Veterinary Services, the documents are mainly to operationalize the National Action Plan on AMR and lead to its effective implementation of the policy that the government has in place.

He noted that so far, the country has made so much progress in the field of AMR. This includes strengthening of surveillance of AMR through improved infrastructure such as modern equipment in the laboratories as well as increasing number of laboratories from two in 2017 to 16 currently.

Notably, Dr. Azegele said that Kenya has been able to submit AMR data from the laboratories to the World Health Organization’ s Global AMR Surveillance System(GLASS).

He also mentioned that counties are warming up to the National Action Plan with 11 counties (Machakos, Nyeri, Kiambu, Kilifi, Kisumu, Bungoma, Uasin Gishu, Trans Nzoia, Bomet, Makueni and Murang’a) establishing their multisectoral coordination committees. Eight of these counties have developed county specific Action plans on AMR.

Dr. Evelyn Wesangula, the AMR Focal point person at the Ministry of Health stated that everyone should take responsibility in the fight against AMR.

“The government cannot on its own. They will only give direction in terms of policy and proposed interventions,” she said, noting that even citizens can give solutions to some of the problems they are facing.