The aim of the walk was to bring awareness to the dangers of the misuse and overuse of antibiotics to the general public. Photo: Victory Kamthunzi

On 20th November, the African Institute for Development Policy (AFIDEP) joined the Malawi Ministry of Health and Population (MOHP), key stakeholder institutions and organisations from the private sector in a ‘Big Walk’ through Lilongwe City, Malawi to commemorate Antibiotic Awareness Week. The aim of the Walk was to bring awareness to the general public on the dangers of the misuse and overuse of antibiotics. The theme was ‘The future of antibiotic depends on us all’

Organised by the MOHP through the Public Health Institute of Malawi (PHIM), the Big Walk started from Amina House and finished at the Game complex. Approximately 200 people participated in the event handing out awareness materials to people on the streets and vehicles passing by. Organisations in attendance included the Malawi Liverpool Wellcome Trust, TNM, University of North Carolina Project-Malawi (UNC) and FDH Bank Limited.

Among the awareness materials were a comic strip, fact sheet and an information sheet on work being done of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in Malawi produced by AFIDEP. These efforts are part of the collaborative work done by the Drivers of Resistance in Uganda and Malawi (DRUM) consortium, a project that brings together a group of researchers, including MOHP and the Malawi Liverpool Wellcome Trust, seeking to understand more about the spread of AMR between humans, animals, and the wider environment in rural and urban parts of Malawi and Uganda. A key aspect of DRUM is to explore key actors’ perceptions of the barriers between sectors to sustainable, collaborative development of policy in line with the Malawi antibacterial resistance strategic plan.

As AMR is a One Health issue, and it is possible that human and animal waste can spread resistant bacteria in the wider environment the materials contained information on how to ensure humans, animals and the environment can be protected. Therefore, a key message in the awareness materials was the fact that “Infections caused by AMR-bacteria can increase the risk of spread of infection to communities and livestock and result in longer duration of illness, higher mortality rates, and increased costs of alternative treatment.”Nevertheless, it is important for people to understand that antibiotics are not bad and do save lives but rather it is the misuse and overuse that is the problem. As such the following five facts were listed as key things to know and help preserve the future of antibiotics (read the more comprehensive facts here):

  1. Antibiotics save lives
  2. Antibiotics aren’t always the answer
  3. Antibiotics do not work on viruses or parasites
  4. Antibiotics are only needed for treating infections caused by bacteria
  5. If you need antibiotics, take them exactly as prescribed

The walk saw over 3000 printed awareness materials disseminated. On arrival at the finish, Ethel Kapyepye the Chief Director in the MOH responsible for Safe Motherhood gave a speech and emphasised the risks of antibiotic resistance and that they should only be taken when prescribed by a healthcare worker. The function was marked by several activities including a poem by one of the participants titled ‘The future of antibiotics depends on us.’ There was also a dance and a launch of a song on antibiotic resistance by the Mlatho Awareness Group. The event was concluded by encouraging the public to always finish the dosage of antibiotics they are prescribed by healthcare workers.

The Big Walk highlights:

The DRUM Consortium is a group of researchers seeking to understand more about the spread of AMR between humans, animals, and the wider environment in rural and urban parts of Malawi and Uganda. Ultimately, this information will help identify the best ways to control antimicrobial resistance in Malawi and Uganda.

From November 18-24, 2019, organisations across the world will join in the commemoration of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Antibiotic Awareness Week 2019. The focus of this week is to raise awareness about antibiotic resistance and to encourage appropriate antibiotic use in all healthcare settings. This year’s theme for Antibiotic Awareness Week, like in previous years, is ‘Antibiotics: handle with care’.

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