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ASEAN leaders commit to fight malnutrition, drug-resistant infections

The leaders of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states have agreed to align their initiatives to end all forms of malnutrition and thwart antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in the region.

In a statement, the Department of Health (DOH) on Tuesday said the ASEAN Leaders’ declaration on Ending All Forms of Malnutrition was signed during the 31st ASEAN Summit to initiate a "multi-sectoral" approach on food security and nutrition among the agriculture, public health and nutrition, and social welfare sectors of ASEAN governments and other stakeholders concerned.

"It is imperative that ASEAN Member States, without delay, scale up actions toward ending all forms of malnutrition, to make sure that the potential of everyone, everywhere, is unleashed by making malnutrition an injustice of the past," the statement said.

Health ministers of the 10-nation body are assigned to monitor the progress of the declaration and support the delivery of nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive interventions.

The Philippines, who hosted this year's summit marking the ASEAN's 50th anniversary, was tasked to formulate the framework of action to implement the declaration among ASEAN countries in March 2018.

Nutrition, seen as a "maker and marker of development," is essential to fulfill the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations in line with its agenda to be met by 2030.

"Faster results at scale are necessary to achieve the six global targets for Improved Maternal, Infant and Young Nutrition adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015, and the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030," the statement said.

According to the DOH, 17.9 million girls and boys in ASEAN countries are suffering from stunted growth and face diminished mental development due to malnutrition.

Anti-microbal resistance

ASEAN leaders on Monday also signed a declaration to fight anti-microbal resistance (AMR), or the resistance to all known drug treatments.

Globally, the inappropriate use of anti-microbials in the health, veterinary and agriculture sectors have led to an alarming increase in drug-resistant infections observed across different regions and countries.

"The ASEAN community quickly recognized the importance of taking action against AMR with the increasing incidence of of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in the region such as drug-resistant tuberculosis,methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), macrolide-resistant Streptococcus pneumoniae, multi-drug resistant enteric pathogens and extremely drug-resistant Gram-negative bacilli in both the hospital and community settings," the statement said.

As the Philippine government chairs this year's summit, the DOH was tasked to craft the declaration's framework and monitor its implementation in the regional and national levels.

“Antimicrobial resistance poses a serious threat not only in the Philippines but also the whole ASEAN with major implications in health, trade, agriculture, the economy and global security," Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said.

"DOH is ready to share our country experience in implementing the one health approach with other ASEAN member states that is embodied in our National Action Plan to combat antimicrobial resistance,” the secretary added.

The DOH's national action plan to combat AMR outlines strategies in leadership and governance; surveillance and laboratory capacity; access to essential medicines of assured quality; awareness and promotion; infection prevention and control; rational antimicrobial use among humans and animals; and research and development.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that drug resistant infections can overtake cancer as the leading cause of human suffering and death by 2050 if not properly remedied by government action. — Margaret Claire Layug/BM, GMA News