“Years ago, before antimicrobials were discovered, simple cases of boils, diarrhea, or wounds from surgeries could lead to death. If Antimicrobial Resistance is uncurbed, a time will come when infections will no longer be treated with the drugs we have now.” – Dr. Zaharat Kadri-Alabi
Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) continues to pose a major challenge to global health and development. Declared by the World Health Organization as one of the top 10 global public health threats to humanity, AMR occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites change over time and no longer respond to medicines, making infections harder to treat and increasing the risk of disease spread, severe illness and death. Although exacerbated by several factors, like abuse or misuse of antimicrobials and poor hygiene and sanitary conditions, the potentially compounding effects for Nigeria as a developing nation is enormous, considering conflicting economic priorities, low universal coverage, and other forms of (health and income) inequalities.
World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW) is a global campaign that is celebrated annually, between the 18th and 24th of November, to improve awareness and understanding of AMR and encourage best practices among the public, One Health stakeholders and policymakers, who all play a critical role in reducing the further emergence and spread of AMR. The theme of this year’s WAAW “Preventing Antimicrobial Resistance Together” is a call for collaborative efforts from all sectors (especially in the animal, human and environmental health) to encourage the prudent use of antimicrobials and to strengthen preventive measures using a One Health approach.
As an organization, DRASA Health Trust continues to champion activities that promote public health and we are committed to Nigeria’s National Action Plan for Antimicrobial Resistance through our contributions to the fight against this silent pandemic via our AMR School Program. We also support the development and review of national policies and guidelines on AMR as well as their adoption at sub-national levels. In the past, DRASA has held competitions for students, attended symposia and spoken at events to celebrate WAAW.
This year, in alignment with the Global Campaign theme, DRASA Health Trust carried out an interschool debate competition, talent show, and hosted an online conversation on Twitter. These activities were targeted at students, teachers and the public.
The interschool debate we held aimed to create more awareness about the One Health approach as it relates to AMR amongst our DRASA Ambassadors (i.e., members of our Health and Hygiene Clubs) their teachers, and their peers. We wanted to provide an opportunity for our DRASA Ambassadors to connect with Ambassadors in other schools and to increase awareness and adoption of best practices in regard to preventing antimicrobial resistance.
Thus, Ambassadors across schools in Lagos where we have our AMR School Program met to compete in 2 stages of the debate competition – a pre-qualifier and a grand finale.
The pre-qualifier on Wednesday 16th November was done at the district level, 10 schools in each of the 2 education districts selected (Districts 4 and 6) competed against one another (20 schools total). The topic for this stage of the debate was “Towards Preventing AMR, Who Plays a Bigger Role: The Government or the Schools ?”
The judges were officials in each of the districts and at the end of the pre-qualifiers, 6 schools qualified for the grand slam/finale: New Era Girls Senior Secondary School, Obele Community Senior Secondary School and Ansar-Ud-Deen Senior High School emerged winners in District 4, while State Senior High School, Community Senior High School and Okota Senior High School of District 6.
The grand finale on Wednesday 23rd November had all 6 schools competing on the topic: “One Health as a Solution for AMR: A Reality or a Facade?” An external judge was brought in to assess the performance of the debaters, alongside a representative judge from Districts 4 and 6. After a keenly contested debate, State Senior High School, New Era Girls Senior Secondary School, and Obele Community Senior Secondary School emerged winners in 1st, 2nd and 3rd places respectively.
To add smiles to the faces of our Ambassadors, the inter school debates event also benefited from the sponsorship of personal hygiene products donated in-kind from Unilever Nigeria, the makers of Closeup and Omo Detergent, as well as Hayat Kimya, the makers of Molped sanitary pads.
The second aspect of our WAAW celebration was a talent showcase, in which our student Ambassadors depicted their understanding of AMR through poetry, songs, drama etc. The students were requested to submit their entries, after which the DRASA team internally assessed the submissions. 3 entries from each of the 2 districts were invited to compete in the grand finale and as a result, a group song performance by Omole Senior Grammar School won 1st place, followed by a solo poem performance from the same school in 2nd place and another solo poem performance from Lagos City College in 3rd place.
We collaborated with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to host a 90-minute conversation on the topic You, Me and The Supergerms: Preventing Antimicrobial Resistance Together, to increase awareness and adoption of best practices in regard to safe antimicrobial medication to the public.
This was held using the Spaces Feature on Twitter on Thursday, the 24th day of November 2022.
Over 1,200 listeners joined the conversation to listen to our experts: Prof. Oyinlola Oduyebo (Professor and Consultant Clinical Microbiologist, University of Lagos), Dr. Yewande Alimi (AMR program Coordinator at Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention), and Dr. Zaharat Kadri-Alabi (Veterinary Doctor, Scholar and One Health Researcher).
Some of the successes recorded and lessons learned from this series of events, which includes a better (expression of understanding) of AMR by participants online and offline, will inform our work for subsequent AMR program activities.