UK and Sierra Leone launch £1.5m partnership to tackle growing threat of drug resistance

The UK Government has formally launched a £1.5m partnership with Sierra Leone aimed at tackling drug resistance by improving public health surveillance systems, upgrading laboratory equipment and training scientists.

The partnership is part of The Fleming Fund, a £265 million aid programme to tackle the growing threat of drug resistance – referred to as antimicrobial resistance (AMR) – in low and middle-income countries across Africa and Asia.

AMR occurs when bacteria survive exposure to antibiotics that would normally kill them. Researchers estimate some 700,000 people die each year from drug resistant infections, but if the current trends continue that number could rise to 10 million deaths a year by 2050.

To manage this growing threat, fundamental changes are needed in the way antibiotics are consumed and manufactured. Better data is also needed to understand how resistance develops and how drugs are used.

The Fleming Fund, managed by the UK Department of Health and Social Care in partnership with Mott MacDonald, the Fleming Fund Grant Management Agent, targets these issues by investing in AMR surveillance to generate data about drug resistance and drug use. Data can then be shared locally with doctors to support patient care, nationally with government officials to improve health policies and internationally with international organisations to build a picture of global resistance trends.

In Sierra Leone, the Fleming Fund has appointed the World Health Organization (WHO) to support the country to develop AMR surveillance. The WHO will also be responsible for improving laboratory diagnostics, establishing AMR technical working groups within the national government and building capacity of scientists and laboratory staff.

Commenting on the announcement, Simon Mustard, UK High Commissioner said:

“Antimicrobial resistance is a growing global threat. This new partnership, with the UK Fleming Fund, will build on the existing co-financing relationship between the UK and the Government of Sierra Leone that provides access to lifesaving medicines. The grant will build a stronger surveillance system across the country to better understand antimicrobial resistance and will help strengthen the effectiveness of these medicines in years to come.”

Dr. Steven Shongwe, WHO Representative, Sierra Leone said:

“With support from the UK government through the Fleming Fund; we will improve laboratory capacity, surveillance of AMR and use of data in Sierra Leone. It is our hope that in the future this will enable prompt diagnosis of drug resistant diseases and advance the health security of the people Sierra Leone.”

Adjo Mfodwo, West Africa Regional Coordinator, Fleming Fund Management Agent, Mott MacDonald said:

“This Partnership is a great opportunity to strengthen both the tools and the capacity available to the Government of Sierra Leone to address the AMR challenge. We are delighted to be leading the partnership between Fleming Fund, Government of Sierra Leone and WHO that will tackle some of the local challenges AMR presents.”

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