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Dec 03, 2022 / 15:55

WHO, FAO encourage people to take action for a healthier and safer Vietnam

Vietnam has one of the highest rates of antimicrobial resistance in Asia and needs to step up efforts with the world to tackle the problems.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Vietnam are encouraging individuals and groups to ‘take the pledge’ and commit to taking action to protect human and animal health by stopping misuse and overuse of antimicrobials.

 Dr Angela Pratt, WHO Representative in Vietnam, speaks on antimicrobial resistance at Green One UN House in Hanoi on Dec 2. Screenshots: Minh Vu  

At an event this week at Green One UN House, WHO Representative in Vietnam Dr Angela Pratt and FAO Representative in Vietnam Dr Rémi Nono Womdim highlighted the dangers posed by antimicrobial resistance and encouraged action among the general public, health workers, animal owners, and policymakers to avoid the further emergence and spread of drug-resistant infections.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites resist the

effects of medications, making common infections harder to treat and increasing the risk of

disease spread, severe illness, and death. Antimicrobials are used to fight diseases in humans, animals, and plants and include antibiotics, antiviral, antifungal, and antiparasitic medicines.

Speaking at the event in Hanoi this week, Dr Angela Pratt described this as an extremely important issue for Vietnam, the region, and the world because it’s a real threat to public health if we don’t step up our efforts to tackle AMR.

“This is really a top priority issue for WHO in Vietnam as well as regionally and globally. WHO has declared that AMR is one of the top 10 threats facing humanity,” Pratt said, noting that in Vietnam, AMR is a “very real and growing problem”. The country has one of the highest rates of AMR in Asia.

She said it’s an important time to take stock of some of the lessons from Covid-19. She finds AMR one of the scariest issues that the world faces in public health.

“We need to stop the misuse and overuse of antibiotics,” the doctor emphasized, saying it requires changing behavior and changing systems and both of these things are actually very complex.

However, there’s a “very high level of political commitment to addressing this problem” and that’s hugely important. According to Pratt, Vietnam is one of the first countries in the region to develop a national plan to tackle AMR so that’s a really strong basis for international organizations like WHO to work with governmental agencies to reach key institution decisions.

In addition, she stressed the role of joint efforts, noting that not a single country anywhere in the world has got the solution completely right.

Dr Rémi Nono Womdim, FAO Representative in Vietnam, addresses issues at the event. 

Expressing the same concerns, Dr Rémi Nono Womdim, FAO Representative in Vietnam, said the challenges in Vietnam in relation to AMR are particularly increasing due to a large number of small older farmers and small farms where they raise animals in poor conditions of biosecurity and limited veterinary and diagnostic services available to farmers.

Vietnam has been one of the leading countries in the region to address the fight against AMR. A new action plan on antibiotic resistance control for 2021-2025 was released expanding the minutes of agricultural world development efforts to tackle AMR.

“We need to work together across sectors to slow down and strengthen agreed food systems and to save people,” he said, adding that keeping AMR effective should help maintain important tools to avoid the spread of diseases on farms, contributing to more sustainable agri-food systems as a multidisciplinary organization.

FAO plays a key role in providing integrated employer and support to countries in regulating and monitoring the use of antimicrobials and in preventing and minimizing the development of resistance across all sectors.

“We recognize that a collaborative approach between different sectors and both political and economic entities and disciplines is essential in this connection,” and that the UN systems in Vietnam will continue to work alongside the government and other key actors to increase the holders' awareness and engagement in this cause.

Dr Rémi Nono Womdim noted that “Our ultimate goal is to preserve antimicrobial efficiency and ensure sustainable and equitable access to antimicrobials for responsible and safe use in human, animal, and plant health.”  

“Think twice and seek advice before buying and using antimicrobials,” he noted. 

In the Western Pacific region, which includes Vietnam, an Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) ‘pledge’ campaign commenced in 2017 with the theme “Stewards for the Future: One Region, One Movement to Fight against Antimicrobial Resistance”. The movement aims to mobilize collective action and personal responsibility to fight AMR and protect the health and safety of individuals, communities, and also future generations.

The ongoing campaign has since secured over 220,000 online pledges from countries right across the Region, with WHO and FAO continuing to call on people to ‘take the pledge’ to create a regional movement of up to one million committed individuals, helping to stop overuse and misuse of antimicrobials. People are encouraged to sign up online and pledge to join the “Stewards for the Future campaign: Race to a million pledges to use antibiotics responsibly”.

To accompany the National Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance and assess the current management status of antibiotic use in the health sector, a number of hospitals in Hanoi have joined the common campaigns with expertise shared by leading health professionals and managers in Hanoi-based clinics.

The expertise has been contributed by those from the National Hospital of Tropical Diseases, the Vietnam National Children's Hospital, Bach Mai Hospital, the National Institute of Hematology & Blood Transfusion, the National Institute Of Hygiene And Epidemiology, Hanoi Medical University, Hanoi University of Public Health, among others.

With an aim to reduce the burden caused by AMR, Hanoi’s health experts have made a number of recommendations, namely strengthening supervision and management of drugs in the market; training of students at universities of medicine and pharmacy; enhancing the role of media and social networks to raise public awareness of AMR.

Prof. Nguyen Hai Nam, Rector of Hanoi University of Pharmacy, said at a national conference held in Hanoi in September 2022 that humans have not discovered a new class of antibiotics in the last 30 years. Therefore, using antibiotics safely and effectively is the only approach to treating bacterial infections.

Deputy Minister of Health Do Xuan Tuyen believed that antimicrobial resistance is a global issue and that underdeveloped nations are particularly prone to it. It is critical to address antibiotic resistance in Vietnamese healthcare facilities.