"I lost a loved one to a multi-drug resistant infection..."

Mabel Aworh, Nigeria’s Animal Health Fellow for AMR Surveillance helped launch the UK’s investment in Nigeria earlier this month by giving a speech at the British High Commissioner's Residence in Abuja.

I am delighted to be here to give this speech on behalf of the Nigerian Fleming Fund Fellows. The UK Government’s Department of Health and Social Care established the Fleming Fund to respond to the global threat of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) in Low and Middle Income Countries (LMICs) including Nigeria. The Fleming Fund Fellowship scheme is focused on building change agents in the national AMR system and we are privileged to be part of this.

In order to be part of the fellowship scheme, we went through a rigorous selection process conducted by academic mentors at the Denmark Technical University and Public Health England. Fellows were selected from different Ministries, Departments and Agencies from the Human Health and Animal Health sectors, since AMR can only be truly tackled using a “One Health” approach. The fellowships run for 18 months. Each of us are assigned a Mentor from one of these institutions and provided with specific training on leadership, data and microbiology to help us develop our skills and become agents of change for AMR in Nigeria.

To help you understand the importance of antimicrobial resistance and the Fleming Fund programme, my Fellowship colleagues have provided some reflections based upon our experience that I’d like to read.

Charles Emejuru, Veterinary and Pest Control Services, Federal Ministry of Agriculture & Rural Development said: My interest in AMR stems from personal experiences with ineffective drugs. I have seen the health of relatives significantly deteriorate because they could not get any drugs that were effective against their ailment. The Fleming fund fellowship is equipping me with the needed skills for AMR Surveillance especially on data management to help inform policy in the right direction. I hope to use the knowledge gained from the fellowship to train my colleagues at the office and share my scientific findings nationally and internationally…

Abiodun Egwuenu, AMR unit, Prevention, Programmes and Knowledge Management, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control said: I am interested in AMR because it is an issue that affects all. With support from Fleming Fund, I am learning how to use data to drive policy changes…

Eme Ekeng, National Reference Lab, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control said: I am interested to fight against AMR by addressing gaps in the quality of laboratory results. Many Nigerian diagnostic laboratories are far from meeting minimum standards so we have to work with poor quality data. Through our mentors, this program has helped to build my skills in laboratory diagnosis; contribute to National AMR surveillance activities, and build my leadership skills …

Victoria Adetunji, University of Ibadan said: Over the years as a veterinarian, my passion to contribute to public health and social well-being of humans motivated me to apply for the Fleming fund Fellowship-Animal Health. This fellowship has given me the opportunity to acquire new skills in advanced methods, improve my research capacity and has given me a platform to do an Antibiotics resistance awareness campaigns in Ibadan, Nigeria via radio interviews and print media. ….

Ini Adebiyi University College Hospital said: As a Medical Laboratory Scientist, I have been involved in detecting, diagnosing and monitoring diseases and patient treatment. Since being a part of the Fleming Fellowship scheme, my mentors from Public Health England have helped improve my understanding of antimicrobial resistance mechanisms. The fellowship is improving my surveillance skills and laboratory skills so we can provide better treatment for patients in hospital.

Oluwadamilola Abiodun-Adewusi, NAFDAC said: My passion for AMR arose in 2006, when I lost my beloved father to multi-drug resistant tuberculosis. As a veterinarian and an epidemiologist with great passion for public health, I have always believed bridging gaps and understanding major health problems such as AMR is a task bothering the academia, public health institutions and the world at large. I believe this fellowship will further equip me in combating and formulating AMR policies for Nigeria and the world at large….

Idowu Oluwabunmi Fagbamila, National Veterinary Research Institute said: As a researcher, it is paramount that our laboratory results can be duplicated and trusted, that’s why my focus is in ensuring we get better laboratory results. The Fleming fund fellowship is helping me by developing my capacity to test for resistant genes, conduct proper laboratory safety procedures and network with other labs and researchers from other countries to carry out whole genome sequencing of historical data from Nigeria…

Lastly, I will speak for myself. I work as an epidemiologist in the area of food safety at the Department of Veterinary and Pest Control Services, and have been involved in the AMR work at the Ministry since inception; starting with the systematic review, I helped conduct the AMR situation analysis and develop our AMR National Action Plan which is currently being implemented. I led the Nigerian delegates to the intergovernmental Task Force on AMR in South Korea in December 2018. My recent visit to Denmark Technical University as a Fleming fund fellow has helped me acquire additional skills to strengthen my capabilities and competencies in AMR surveillance to enable me use scientifically robust AMR surveillance evidence to inform policies and public health actions that will eventually reduce AMR in Nigeria.

AMR is an issue that is close to my heart. I am passionate about the work that I do and would be glad if the burden of AMR in Nigeria is reduced to the barest minimum as I lost a loved one to multidrug resistant infections. I have chosen AMR Surveillance Fellowship as my area of study because I am passionate about consumer health and safety, especially in relation to the emergence of zoonotic diseases like AMR and several foodborne diseases that are a major global concern because of their public health importance.

We are optimistic that by the end of our fellowship, we would have a better understanding of the depth of the problem of AMR in the country and will be better equipped to reverse the trend. We would like to call on all policy makers and stakeholders here present to join us in becoming change agents for AMR and use their good offices to commit more resources to tackling AMR, because no single partner can solve all the challenges alone. We pledge to work with all AMR stakeholders in Nigeria and are grateful that the Fleming Fund is helping us achieve our objectives in country. On behalf of the fellows, I would like to thank the UK for responding to this global problem and for giving us a lifetime opportunity to become global change agents for AMR. Thank you and God Bless!

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