UN, global health agencies sound alarm on drug-resistant infections; new recommendations to reduce ‘staggering number’ of future deaths

Deaths caused by infections from antibiotic-resistant bacteria will skyrocket over the next two decades, along with huge economic costs, without immediate, ambitious and coordinated action, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) and partners warned on Monday.

According to a groundbreaking report, the UN Ad hoc Interagency Coordinating Group on Antimicrobial Resistance warned that if no action is taken, drug-resistant diseases could cause 10 million deaths each year by 2050 and damage to the economy as catastrophic as during the 2008-2009 global financial crisis. By 2030, antimicrobial resistance could force up to 24 million people into extreme poverty. 

PAHO/WHOLab assistant growing culture viruses and bacteria in the “Infectious Room” of the Cancer Institute of Columbia.

Currently, at least 700,000 people die each year due to drug-resistant diseases, including 230,000 people who die from multidrug-resistant tuberculosis.

More and more common diseases, including respiratory and urinary tract infections, as well as sexually transmitted infections, are untreatable; lifesaving medical procedures are becoming much riskier, and our food systems are increasingly precarious, says the report.

“We are at a critical point in the fight to protect some of our most essential medicines,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General and Co-Chair of the IACG. “This report makes concrete recommendations that could save thousands of lives every year.”

The world is already feeling the economic and health consequences as crucial medicines become ineffective. Without investment from countries in all income brackets, future generations will face the disastrous impacts of uncontrolled antimicrobial resistance.

 Recognizing that human, animal, food and environmental health are closely interconnected, the report calls for a coordinated, multisectoral ‘One Health’ approach. 

 It recommends countries:

  • prioritize national action plans to scale-up financing and capacity-building efforts; 
  • put in place stronger regulatory systems and support awareness programs for responsible and prudent use of antimicrobials by professionals in human, animal and plant health;
  • invest in ambitious research and development for new technologies to combat antimicrobial resistance; and
  • urgently phase out the use of critically important antimicrobials as growth promoters in agriculture.

“Antimicrobial resistance is one of the greatest threats we face as a global community. This report reflects the depth and scope of the response needed to curb its rise and protect a century of progress in health,” said Amina Mohammed, UN Deputy Secretary-General and Co-Chair of the IACG.

“It rightly emphasizes that there is no time to wait, and I urge all stakeholders to act on its recommendations and work urgently to protect our people and planet and secure a sustainable future for all,” she added. 

The report highlights the need for coordinated and intensive efforts to overcome antimicrobial resistance: a major barrier to the achievement of many of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including universal health coverage, secure and safe food, sustainable farming systems and clean water and sanitation.

Senior UN official strongly condemns Southern California synagogue attack

The top official for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) has strongly condemned the attack Saturday on a synagogue in Southern California, denouncing the deadly incident as a hate crime targeting Sabbath worshipers on the last day of Passover.

UN Photo/Aliza EliazarovThe High-Representative for the UN Alliance of Civilizations, Miguel Ángel Moratinos Cuyaubé, briefs reporters at UN Headquarters (file).

According to news reports, on Saturday, a gunman armed with a semiautomatic rifle entered a synagogue in Poway, California, some 40 kilometres north of San Diego, yelling anti-Semitic slurs, and opened fire. The attack left one woman dead, the rabbi and two others wounded.

This incident comes in the wake of a series of attacks against mosques, synagogues and other places of worship in the past months, including the Easter Sunday suicide bombings targeting churches in Sri Lanka that killed more than 250 people. Last month, dozens of worshippers were gunned down at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.

In a statement, UNAOC High Representative Miguel Moratinos reiterated that such cowardly attacks are  not confined to one religion, country or ethnicity.

Mr. Moratinos also stressed that this spate of violence against houses of worship targeting innocent and peaceful citizens “should not obstruct our efforts to combat hatred, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and all forms of discrimination.”

He vowed to continue to work on developing his Plan of Action for safeguarding religious sites to guarantee that worshipers can observe their rituals in a spirit of peace and compassion.

On behalf of UNAOC, the High Representative expressed his deepest condolences to the family of the victim and wishes those who were injured a speedy recovery.

The United Nations Alliance of Civilizations was established in 2005, as the political initiative of former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and co-sponsored by the Governments of Spain and Turkey. A High-Level Group of experts was formed to explore the roots of polarization between societies and cultures, and to recommend a practical programme of action to address the issue.

UN appeals for international support as flood waters rise in wake of second Mozambique cyclone

With Mozambique and Comoros battling heavy rains and raging flood waters in the wake of Cyclone Kenneth – the second major storm to hit southern Africa in the past six weeks – the United Nations and its humanitarian partners are supporting national authorities in assessing needs and providing help.

UN Spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said on Sunday that Secretary-General António Guterres is appealing to the international community for additional resources, critically needed to fund the response to the twin tragedies in the immediate, medium- and longer-term.

OCHA/Saviano AbreuMacomia district, in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique, has been hard-hit by Cyclone Kenneth, which made landfall on 25 April.

“The Secretary-General is deeply saddened at reports of loss of lives and destruction in Mozambique and Comoros as a result of tropical cyclone Kenneth, six weeks after Cyclone Idai made landfall in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe,” the Spokesman said in a statement.

The UN chief also extended his condolences and solidarity to the families of the victims and to the governments and peoples of Mozambique and Comoros.

In a flash update earlier Sunday, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) said the cyclone, with powerful winds that ripped the roofs off homes, caused the death of at least five people in Mozambique’s Pemba city, Macomia district and on Ibo Island, according to Government reports.

Some 3,500 homes in Comoros have been totally or partially destroyed and there are reports of electrical outages, road blockages and at least one bridge collapse, according to WFP.

The UN and its partners have been in the region since late March, after Cyclone Idai made landfall near Beira City in central Mozambique. The long-lived cyclone continued across land as a Tropical Storm and hit eastern Zimbabwe, southeastern Malawi and parts of Madagascar with heavy rains and strong winds.

Last Friday, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock lamented that Cyclone Idai had devastated central Mozambique, killing more than 600 people, unleashing a cholera epidemic, wiping out crops in the country’s breadbasket, forcing a million people to rely on food assistance to survive, and causing massive destruction of homes, schools and infrastructure in one of the world’s poorest countries.

He stressed that Cyclone Kenneth marks the first time two cyclones have made landfall in Mozambique during the same season, further stressing the Government’s limited resources. Malawi and Zimbabwe are also expected to experience heavy rains and flooding caused by Cyclone Kenneth.

“Cyclone Kenneth may require a major new humanitarian operation at the same time that the ongoing Cyclone Idai response targeting three million people in three countries remains critically underfunded,” said Mr. Lowcock, adding:  “The families whose lives have been turned upside down by these climate-related disasters urgently need the generosity of the international community to survive over the coming months.”

‘The green economy is the future,’ UN chief says in Beijing, urging climate solutions that strengthen economies, protect the environment

Winning the race against climate change to keep our planet livable and on a healthy trajectory requires action rooted in sustainable solutions aligned with the Paris Agreement and the UN-driven 2030 Agenda for sustainable development, Secretary-General António Guterres said on Saturday.

UN China/Zhao YunUN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres attends the Leader’s Roundtable on Promoting Green and Sustainable Development to Implement the 2030 Agenda in Beijing, China

“To put it simply, we need green development.  We need sustainable development.  And we need it now,” the UN chief told world leaders in Beijing, discussing ways to boost green development as part of a conference on China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

Painting a sobering picture of the challenges ahead – for the planet and the broader effort to secure improved human well-being while reducing environmental risks – Mr. Guterres recalled that the last four years were the hottest on record and that natural disasters have wreaked havoc in nearly every region of the globe.

“No country or community is immune. And, as we know, the poor and vulnerable are the first to suffer, and the worst hit,” said Mr. Guterres, warning that the climate crisis threatens decades of progress and jeopardizes all our plans for inclusive, sustainable development.

“And the clock is ticking.  Science has clearly told us that we have only 12 years for this transformation, if we want to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius and avoid the worst impacts of climate change.”

Yet the race to head off a climate catastrophe and ensure a safe and secure planet for all can be won, he said, with global action rooted in solutions that are sustainable and aligned with the landmark Paris accord and the UN 2030 Agenda.

To help generate ambition and to showcase practical, feasible and ambitious solutions to meet globally agreed goals, Mr. Guterres is convening a Climate Action Summit in New York on 23 September.

UN China/Zhao YunLeader’s Roundtable on Promoting Green and Sustainable Development to Implement the 2030 Agenda was held in Beijing, China on 27, April, 2019

“I am calling on leaders to come with concrete, realistic plans to enhance their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) by 2020,” he said, referring to efforts by each country under the Paris Agreement to reduce national emissions and adapt faster to the impacts of climate change.

The Secretary-General said these plans must show how greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced by 45 per cent over the next decade and how the world can get to net zero emissions globally by 2050 through strong mitigation and adaptation measures.

“It is why I have been asking leaders around the world to adopt carbon pricing that reflects the true cost of emissions, end subsidies on fossil fuels, and stop construction of new coal plants beyond 2020,” he explained, noting that he is also counting on leaders to make sure their plans include women as key decision-makers and address the disproportionate impacts many women experience from climate change.

In all this, Chinese leadership will continue to be crucial, said Mr. Guterres, stressing that new renewable energy jobs in China now outnumber those created in the oil and gas industries.  China also played a pivotal role in building bridges and securing an agreement at last December’s UN Climate Conference in Katowice – and will host next year’s second Global Sustainable Transport Conference.

The Belt and Road Initiative, with its huge volume of investment, said, Mr. Guterres, is an opportunity to propel the world into a green future and help countries transition to low-carbon, clean-energy pathways with new infrastructure that is sustainable and equitable.

“The momentum for transformational change is growing,” said the Secretary-General, stressing that the “green economy is the future,” and more governments, cities and businesses than ever understand that climate solutions strengthen economies and protect the environment at the same time.

New technologies are delivering energy at a lower cost than the fossil-fuel-driven economy, he continued, and solar and onshore wind are now the cheapest sources of new power, in virtually all major economies.