The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Sabo Nanono, has advised Nigerian farmers against using antibiotics to promote growth in animals.
He made this remark at the launch of the World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW) in Abuja on Thursday.
“To our farmers, don’t use antibiotics to promote growth in animals. Antibiotics should only be used when prescribed by a Veterinary professional, for the duration indicated and withdrawal period must be observed,” the minister said.
The awareness week, November 18-24, was instituted by the World Health Organization (WHO), World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and FAO to enlighten farmers, producers, cooks and consumers on prevention of the spread of drug-resistant microbes, to avoid them turning into another pandemic.
The minister said vaccinations, biosecurity measures and good animal husbandry practices will reduce infections and use of antibiotics in livestock .
He urged pharmaceutical companies to be responsible and accountable in the marketing, supply and distribution of antimicrobials.
Mr Nanono said resistance to antibiotics and other antimicrobial drugs is one of the most significant threats to global health, food security, and global development in general.
He said antimicrobial resistance (AMR) occurs naturally, but that the misuse of antimicrobials in humans and animals is accelerating the process.
“Globally, we are running out of effective antibiotics. We can no longer ignore the urgency and gravity of this issue. If we don’t tackle this urgently, decades of advances in health and medicine are at risk of being undone,” he said.
The minister said antibiotics use in agriculture has been found to be a major driver of AMR with consequences on human health, animal health, plant health and food safety.
He said livestock farmers use antibiotics as growth promoters and egg boosters, especially in places where regulation is poor and antibiotics can be purchased without a prescription, while humans are always self-medicating with inappropriate amounts of antibiotics.
The minister said the World Antimicrobial Awareness Week aims to increase awareness about the problem and the steps that need to be taken to tackle it.
“We all have a role to play! ” he added.
He said “as a government and policymaker, we will take the leadership in getting the right policy in place, to ensure that antibiotics are not misused and overused.
“It is also very important to emphasise that the veterinary professionals should use antimicrobials responsibly and prudently especially in food producing animals. Antibiotics should only be prescribed if they are really needed to treat infections in animals,” the minister warned.
He urged the general public to wash their hands regularly and thoroughly in order to stop germs from spreading.
“Don’t pressurise your doctor to prescribe antibiotics if they’re not needed. And if you really do need them, make sure to always follow your doctor’s advice on the right course of treatment,” he said.
Mr Nanono said antimicrobial resistance is one of the issues on which we will be judged by future generations. “Our actions now, will shape animal and public health for decades to come,” he said.