Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a natural phenomenon in which microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites adapt to antimicrobial agents and cause medications to be ineffective for its curing purpose. For the past two years, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Zimbabwe, with support of financing partners and the Government, embarked on strengthening Zimbabwe’s AMR surveillance capacity through the renovation and equipping of 14 laboratories in three provinces. This process is part of implementation of Zimbabwe’s National Action Plan (NAP) for AMR which was developed in 2017.
“I would like to reiterate FAO’s commitment in continuing providing technical support to the government of Zimbabwe and its various agencies. I take this opportunity to encourage you to emphasize the application of the One Health approach and finding more innovative approaches towards mobilizing resources for financing AMR interventions, sustain and scale-up the results achieved so far,” said Berhanu Bedane, FAO Livestock Development Officer speaking on behalf of Patrice Talla, FAO Subregional Coordinator for Southern Africa and FAO Representative to Zimbabwe.
In Zimbabwe, FAO in partnership with the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development (MoLAFWRD) through the Department of Veterinary Services (DVS), Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) and the Ministry of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry (MECTHI) formulated a One Health approach specifically in strengthening multi-sectoral platforms on AMR, emerging diseases and food safety through forging collaborations and coordination with various stakeholders.
From 9 to 13 May 2022, FAO representatives, government officials, development partners, clinicians, scientists, farmers and the general public witnessed commissioning and handing over of six rehabilitated sentinel laboratories that were renovated and equipped with state of the art equipment in Manicaland, Masvingo and Bulawayo provinces in Zimbabwe – two in each province. The process of rehabilitating the laboratories started in 2019 where the country nominated 14 priority laboratories to participate on the pilot national AMR surveillance using an integrated One Health approach. This was followed by capacity assessments which guided the formulation of technical specifications on the scope of works for the infrastructure rehabilitation, equipment and reagent procurements. A competitive bidding procurement system was undertaken to identify suppliers with the participation of all relevant stakeholders to ensure transparency and complete adherence to the agreed specifications. Upon the engagement of the contractor, the work was initiated with close monitoring and supervision by the Government Public works department until the completion of the renovations.
“In 2017, Zimbabwe developed the National One Health AMR Action Plan aligned to the global AMR Action Plan. In developing the plan, the country conducted an exhaustive AMR and AMU situation analysis, which among other weaknesses and gaps identified in our surveillance systems for AMR, the situation and conditions of our laboratories was dire. We appreciate the intervention of this programme in rehabilitating the laboratories,” said Dr Nyika, Chief Director in the Department of Veterinary Services.
“The laboratories have not only been renovated but upgraded to international standards. These laboratories will be refined to attain ISO17025 accreditation,” added Dr Nyika during one of the commissioning ceremonies in the three provinces.
Renovating and equipping of laboratories is an intermediary intervention, which contributes to the objective of strengthening the country’s capacity in AMR surveillance. The ultimate target, however, is to ensure generation of AMR data and its consequent use by the country to monitor resistance patterns, inform policy and contribute to global monitoring databases. This will also feed and direct into the formulation of the framework of the second phase of the National Action Plan, 2022 – 2027. In addition to this milestone, there is going to be consistent and frequent diagnostic capacity development of human resources, improvement of quality management systems, data management and reporting on AMR. Moreover, FAO will continue providing technical assistance in implementing and compliance of laboratories with biosafety and biosecurity measures to enable attain international standards and gain ISO accreditation relevant to their scope of work.
“The country has made significant strides in practically implementing an integrated One Health approach in its fight against AMR, thereby breaking sectorial silos and vertical approaches which existed in the past. The nation is poised to make a significant foot print in its fight against AMR through these effective collaborations among sectors. We can hope that this momentum can also reach to other pillars of One Heath which include Food Safety and Zoonosis,’’ said Dr Dobbie, Chief Director in the MoHCC as the commissioning of the Bulawayo laboratories concluded the handing over processes in the three provinces.