A senior Ministry of Health official told the UN Global Leaders Group (GLG) that Cambodia has set the prevention of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) as one of the top priorities in the Kingdom’s health strategy plan for 2021-2030.

Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine addressed the UN high-level meeting on AMR on September 22, held as part of the 77th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in the US’ New York City.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), AMR occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites mutate over time and no longer respond to medicines, making infections harder to treat and increasing the risk of disease spread, severe illness and death.

The overuse of antimicrobial medications and the incorrect use of them, such as taking an incomplete course of antibiotics, are the main causes of AMR.

Addressing the GLG, Vandine said AMR has been a global concern for public health since before the Covid-19 pandemic. She said officials from three ministries – Health; Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries; and Environment – have been working hand in hand to try and prevent AMR from increasing in Cambodia.

The health ministry, she said, has learned from the good practices and measures used against Covid-19 in order to use them for the prevention of AMR where applicable.

“The ministry had paid much attention to the increased use of antibiotics to treat Covid-19, especially self-treatment by patients at home without a clear prescription as this is also one of the factors that make viruses resistant to antibiotics,” Vandine said.

She added that as the chair of ASEAN this year, Cambodia has worked hard to prevent AMR in the country and in the region.

“Prevention of AMR has been set as one of the main priorities in the Cambodia health strategy plan for 2021-2030 and it is in line with our priority areas as shown in the future vision for the WHO Western Pacific,” she said.

“Through this plan, we must work harder to strengthen our facilitation mechanisms for the One Health approach and AMR through the establishment of an Inter-Ministerial Coordination Committee [IMCC] to ensure that the structure and governance as well as leadership on this issue are effective in response to AMR,” she said.

According to Vandine, the next steps that the health ministry would take are to review all available legal provisions and laws on the management of antimicrobials used on humans, animals and plants and their effects on the environment as well as prepare a draft strategic document to confront AMR.

“Cambodia has implemented activities, policies and multi-sector strategies coordinated by the health ministry both in health and non-health sectors in dealing with AMR,” she said.

Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh and co-chair of the GLG on AMR, said that urgent action is required to stop the spread of AMR.

“Without action, we face a future where we will be unable to treat infections in humans, animals and plants. We must work together to protect our medicines” she said.

According to WHO, AMR is already a global threat that contributes to almost five million deaths per year while disproportionately affecting low- and middle-income countries and

posing serious threats to human, animal, plant and environmental health while also severely undermining the sustainability of agri-food systems.

“As we continue together towards the high-level meeting in 2024, let us ensure we make an impact and set the course for concrete political action on AMR,” said Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Amor Mottley, another co-chair of the GLG on AMR.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the GLG called for specific actions from the G7 and G20 countries that include fully funding their own national action plans on AMR and contributing to the funding of multi-sector national action plans for resource-limited countries through support to existing financial structures.