The World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW) is an annual event conducted by WHO (World Health Organization). It is celebrated across the world between 18-24 November every year. The event’s primary goal is to increase Global Awareness about antibiotic or antimicrobial resistance. It also advocates the adoption of the best healthcare practices to prevent the spread of drug-resistant infections. The overarching WAAW slogan is ‘Antimicrobials: Handle with Care‘. The WHO has outlined five significant goals to this: (2)
- Raising awareness about antibiotics
- Increasing research and supervision
- Reducing infections
- Using antimicrobial medications the right way
- Committing to continual investment
The Onset of Antibiotic Resistance
Antibiotics are one of the most important discoveries by man. They help fight against microbial infections and allow us to survive serious consequences thereof. Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites mutate or evolve and become resistant to the medicines. It makes infections harder to treat and increases the risk of spreading disease, illness and death.  It poses a severe public health issue. The chances of developing antibiotic-resistance increase with the misuse of antibiotics. When antibiotics become ineffective, infections may persist in some people, multiplying the risk of spreading the disease. To mitigate the effect of AMR, advocacy, communication, training, and preventive measures may lead to awareness and improved understanding of antibiotic resistance.
Tracing Antibiotic Resistance
The idea of antibiotic resistance first emerged in 2007 in Europe by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). ECDC launched an initiative called European Antibiotics Awareness Day (EAAD).  Campaigns focusing on awareness and reducing the unnecessary use of antibiotics in the continent were organized. Gradually, more countries joined the initiative. To take this forward, WHO launched the World Antibiotics Awareness Week (WAAW) in 2015. The initiative aims to advocate the importance of using antibiotics only when prescribed by a doctor. This was necessary for countries where poor living standards and low levels of hygiene were accelerating infections. (1)
Campaigns during WAAW
With the onset of the pandemic and various novel infections prevailing globally, antimicrobial stewardship is the need of the day. During the WAAW, some primary campaigns to be adopted are:
- To increase awareness amongst children– about essential cleanliness both at school and at home. Frequent washing of hands, using sanitisers to cover any cuts or wounds and maintaining social distancing are essential. Keeping the environment and your own body clean is also necessary.
- To Consume Vegan Based Nutritious Food– for a healthy body and to support Climate Change which is the dire need of the day. This will have a two-pronged effect- as vegetarian food is rich in Vitamins that promote immunity. Eating less meat and more plant-based foods is the fastest and highest impact step to slash methane, curtail deforestation, prevent soil degradation, reduce water pollution, and free up increasingly scarce farmland and water to ensure enough food for our growing human population. When we choose plant-rich diets, we cut out a substantial portion of greenhouse gas emissions. We even address the increasing problems of antibiotic resistance and zoonotic pathogens. Aglobal food system transformation to protect and preserve our planet is a sustainable initiative promoted under the Sustainable Development Goals.
- To Cultivate Happiness– as the incidence of falling sick is lower in happy people. Recovery is also quicker when mindfulness and serendipity prevails.
For the year 2021, The AMR Tripartite organizations – the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have announced the theme of World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW) 2021 as ‘Spread Awareness, Stop Resistance’. The WAAW 2021 campaign calls on stakeholders, including policymakers, health care providers, and the general public, to recognize that everyone can be an Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Awareness champion.
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