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UNIS/SGSM/257
5 April 2011

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon:

"Combat Antimicrobial Resistance: No Action Today, No Cure Tomorrow"

Message for World Health Day,
7 April 2011

VIENNA, 7 April (UN Information Service) - The discovery of antibiotics and other antimicrobial medicines has been responsible for some of the most dramatic advances in human health. Before these drugs were introduced in the 1940s, infectious diseases took the lives of tens of millions of people each year. These medicines helped drive down the infectious disease burden.

Initial gains were primarily in higher-income countries and among wealthier populations in poor countries. But over the past two decades, new public health strategies and financing mechanisms have enabled poorer communities to access medicines that combat major killers, including TB, HIV, malaria, pneumonia and diarrhoeal diseases. Private sales of medicines for human and animal use have also dramatically expanded.

The gains have been profound, yet we now risk losing many of these precious medicines as drug-resistant organisms emerge. Antimicrobial resistance is a natural phenomenon, but it is exacerbated by the widespread use, overuse and misuse of medicines, and the spread of resistant infections in health-care and agriculture. Trade, travel and migration are increasing the spread of these organisms across communities and borders.

Some of the medicines that saved our parents and grandparents are already unusable today. Drug resistance imposes huge costs on health systems and is taking a growing - and unnecessary - toll in lives, threatening to roll back much of the progress we have made towards the health-related Millennium Development Goals. It could also undermine the gains of other modern medicines and technologies used to fight non-communicable diseases. Perhaps most disturbing is that the pipeline for new antimicrobial medicines to replace those that have been lost has nearly dried up.

The World Health Organization has selected "Combat Antimicrobial Resistance: No Action Today, No Cure Tomorrow" as the theme for this year's World Health Day. The emergence of antimicrobial resistance is a complex problem that involves a range of stakeholders. It needs to be urgently and aggressively addressed through a comprehensive response across sectors, within and across nations.

Today, WHO is calling for action to raise accountability and halt the spread of drug resistance through a six-point policy package: joint planning; surveillance; drug regulation; rational use of medicines; infection prevention and control; innovation and research. Governments, industry and all stakeholders must answer the call. Global health and untold millions of lives are at risk.

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