It may be World Antibiotic Awareness Week where you are, but here at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene annual meeting in Atlanta (just down the road from the CDC), not so much. Except, of course, for CDDEP’s symposium yesterday, “The Global Antibiotic Resistance Partnership—9 Years of Progress.”
The audience was spellbound (my interpretation) as I explained what GARP is, how it’s grown from four countries in 2009 to 13 now, and how it’s expanding today. The first eight countries have blasted through situation analyses and are all almost there with national action plans, headed toward implementation.
It was when Tom Menge (Chief Pharmacist at Kenyatta National Hospital, Kenya’s largest, and a founding member of the GARP-Kenya working group) took the podium and charted Kenya’s 9-year journey as the first GARP partner that the real story began to unfold. While he’s here, GARP-Kenya is staging their biggest Antibiotic Awareness Week yet in their fourth straight year of awareness week activities. The original GARP working group, including Tom, is still largely intact, and the members have become the trusted advisors that we envisioned those many years ago. Because of their success, they also attract collaboration and sponsorship well beyond GARP, now one logo among many.
Then Esperança Sevene (Professor at Eduardo Mondlane Medical School, researcher at Manhiça Health Research Center, and co-chair of GARP-Mozambique) took the stage and told Mozambique’s story. Mozambique was in the second GARP wave, starting in 2012, and like GARP-Kenya they have become the focal point for AMR and have developed the country’s national AMR action plan. Esperança reminded us all of something easy for Americans to forget—that in her country, they’re also still struggling to expand access to antibiotics to much of the rural population, where thousands of children die each year because they get no treatment. Here in the United States and other rich countries, it’s all about cutting antibiotic use—less, less, less. That’s not the answer everywhere, though.
No one was more spellbound by the tale than I was—feeling like a proud parent. Proud but a bit wistful, seeing the “kids” go from strength to strength, not really needing CDDEP to hold their hands or give advice at every turn. The fact is, that’s what we wanted: fully independent working groups that can collaborate with all sectors and serve the needs of their populations over the long term. This is the best celebration of Antibiotic Awareness Week that I can imagine—for CDDEP and for me.
Hellen Gelband is the Associate Director for Policy at CDDEP.