Regional Director’s Visit to Thailand

Regional Director, Ms Saima Wazed, is on her first visit to Thailand after assuming office in February this year. As a keynote speaker at the 4th National Forum on Antimicrobial Resistance, Bangkok, she highlighted the importance of collective efforts to protect public health. Regional Director’s address – 


Your Excellency, Minister of Public Health
Permanent Secretary for Public Health, Ministry of Public Health
Secretary General of the Food and Drug Administration, Ministry of Public Health
Advisor to the Office of Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Public Health
Deputy Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of National Resources and Environment
Deputy Director General of the Department of Livestock Development
Esteem Colleagues, The Special Envoy on Antimicrobial Resistance for the United Kingdom,
World Health Organization Representative to Thailand, and
The regional Quadripartite partners and experts

A very good morning to you all.

We stand here today at a critical juncture in the fight for global public health.

As you know, antimicrobials are critical tools for fighting diseases, not just in humans, but also in animals and plants. They are the cornerstone of modern medicine.

The emergence and spread of drug-resistant pathogens threaten our ability to treat common infections and to perform life-saving procedures. It is a great concern that these medicines are becoming ineffective thus posing potentially catastrophic risks to global public health. Moreover, the pipeline to develop new antibiotics is almost dry.

The misuse and overuse of antimicrobials – in humans, animals, and plants – are the main cause of these drug-resistant pathogens. The lack of clean water, sanitation and hygiene, and inadequate infection prevention and control, promotes the spread of microbes resistant to antimicrobial treatment.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) does not discriminate. It affects every country rich and poor alike. Our countries are already grappling with infectious diseases, and we can ill afford this additional burden.

As our World Health Organization Director General, Dr Tedros, said, if AMR is left unchecked, it will roll back a century of medical progress. It will damage the environment, interrupt food production, cause more people to fall into extreme poverty, and risk global health security.

Addressing AMR is not only about addressing the challenges of drug resistance, but also about improving overall health of our population – and reducing factors that increase the spread of infection.

The situation here in Southeast Asia is particularly concerning. Dense populations, limited access to quality healthcare, the misuse and overuse of antimicrobials have together created a breeding ground for resistant pathogens.

This is reality is very worrying, and the extent of the problem is laid bare by some staggering statistics.

Globally, AMR is estimated to be the direct cause of 1.27 million deaths each year. If we do not act, these numbers will skyrocket, projected to reach a grim 10 million deaths by 2050.

The economic implications are equally alarming. The World Bank estimates that AMR will inflict a $100 trillion burden on the global economy by 2050. It will cause a decline of 3.8% in global exports, and a 7.5% annual decline in livestock production. Healthcare costs are expected to surge by an additional $1 trillion annually.

Compared to the rest of the world, many of our countries in South-East Asia have greater AMR pathogen burdens.

These numbers paint a sobering picture, particularly for developing countries where bacterial diseases already pose a significant burden. AMR threatens to exacerbate this, leaving entire populations vulnerable.

But there is cause for hope. We are not powerless against this silent pandemic.

Addressing AMR requires interdisciplinary collaboration that transcends geographical, professional, and disciplinary barriers. It requires coordination across several sectors and stakeholders, from human health and animal health to agriculture and the environment.

In our Region, we have already taken commendable steps.

Some of you may remember that as early as 2010, our WHO South-East Asia Member States endorsed the Regional Committee Resolution on the Regional Strategy on Prevention and Containment of AMR.

Our Health Ministers adopted the 2011 Jaipur Declaration on Prevention and Containment of Antimicrobial Resistance in the South-East Asia Region. Subsequently, we designated AMR a Flagship Priority in 2014.

These actions were taken by our Member States before the rest of the world adopted the global action plan on AMR in 2015.

The World Health Organization (WHO) further bolstered these efforts by providing guidance on strengthening national action plans (NAPs) on AMR.

Despite this, our work is far from over. We must work together to promote the whole of society, whole of government and “One Health” approaches to address this. We should encourage behavior change for the careful use of antimicrobials and convey the message that simple actions can make big differences. It is going to take a coordinated and concerted effort to address this challenge.

Today, there is also an urgent need for additional measures. We need to ensure equitable access to new and existing vaccines, diagnostics, and medicines to prevent, diagnose and treat infections. We must improve national surveillance of resistance, consumption, and use of antimicrobials, and promote innovation, research and development for novel vaccines, diagnostics and medicines.

We have to strengthen political commitment and leadership. We need governments to prioritize AMR, allocate the necessary resources, and enact and enforce regulations. We need to foster collaboration across sectors – healthcare, agriculture and the environment. Collaboration among them will allow for the alignment of policies, regulations, and guidelines. This will ensure consistency and coherence in approaches across sectors.

We need our leaders at all levels – national, provincial, and local – to galvanize public awareness, empower stakeholders, and ensure the sustainability of our efforts.

Thailand deserves special recognition for its leadership in this fight against AMR. You have initiated and spearheaded negotiations for the WHA resolution on AMR, demonstrating a commitment to global action.

Your national strategic plan on AMR prioritizes a people-centered approach, making sure the needs and wellbeing of individual and communities are prioritized in this fight.  Additionally, your support for the region through WHO collaborating centers shows us true regional solidarity.

This forum is a critical platform for us to move forward together. I would like to see us using this opportunity to strengthen political commitment. We must advocate for increased investment in AMR containment programmes and policies.

Alongside this, we have to forge strong partnerships. We must continue to strengthen collaboration between human health, animal health, and the environment sectors with a ‘One Health’ approach.

And finally, we must of course empower people and communities. It is our duty to equip communities, including the general public, farmers, professionals, and civil society organizations, with the knowledge and tools to combat AMR.

I need not remind you all of the urgency of our task. But we must not lose hope – we have the power to turn the tide.

To do so, we will all have to work together. We will have to renew and fortify our political commitments, and we will have to put people at the center of our service.

I know that everyone in this room is up for this challenge, and I look forward to the outcomes of this forum. I hope you have fruitful and productive discussions, and I thank you for inviting me to address you today.


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