Fiji steps-up the fight against antimicrobial resistance

01 February 2023
Group of people at launch of AMR project

Fiji has launched a renewed action plan to manage antimicrobial resistance, with long-running investment from the Australian Government playing a key role.

Australian Government-supported research to improve the management of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in Fiji has paid off with the launch of the country's renewed National Action Plan 2022-2025 (NAP) on AMR.

AMR is recognised as one of the most urgent emerging threats to human and animal health today and, left unchecked, could result in the evolution of ‘superbugs’ that do not respond to standard treatments and can cause infections that cannot be treated or contained.

‘Superbugs’ – strains of bacteria that have become resistant to the antibiotics used to kill them – require increasingly strong doses with significant implications for both human and animal health.

Fijian Government One Health National Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance 2022 to 2025
The newly launched AMR National Adaptation Plan will guide the project on the key strategic areas to be considered when collaborating with the Government of Fiji and other stakeholders to manage AMR sustainably.

Supported by ACIAR and the Indo-Pacific Centre for Health Security, the 5-year project is the first attempt in the region to cost AMR control options according to risk frameworks and aims to generate a greater understanding of the magnitude of AMR in Fiji.

The project, led by CSIRO, is an example of a One Health approach, with the added benefit of strengthening human and animal health systems, saving costs and improving health outcomes.

Project leader and CSIRO researcher Dr Walter Okelo said antimicrobial resistance is a major public health threat.

Current estimates indicate that AMR contributes to almost 5 million deaths per year globally.

'While challenges persist when it comes to addressing AMR in the Pacific, countries like Fiji are making headway with the launch of the renewed NAP and a dedicated committee to coordinate activities on AMR,’ said Dr Okelo.

The NAP is a national policy that will guide the project on the key strategic areas to be considered when collaborating with the Government of Fiji and other stakeholders to manage AMR sustainably.

AMR is a complex issue that requires a coordinated response among multiple stakeholders. The NAP ensures that efforts are targeted and saves valuable resources.

3 Ministries of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) staff
Ministries of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) staff at the launch of the AMR NAP 2022-2025

Stakeholders involved with the NAP include the Ministries of Health and Medical Services (MHMS), Agriculture, Waterways, and Environment, Fisheries, and Forestry, as well as other government agencies, the World Health Organisation, Fiji National University (FNU) and other academic institutions.

‘FNU has played a critical role in providing technical expertise and research in formulating the AMR NAP. ACIAR provided the funding through the project to assist in formulating and launching the NAP. Availability of resources was an important catalyst that enabled the development of the policy,’ said Dr Okelo.

Dr Okelo added that the project has provided research (technical) and laboratory capacity-building across human, animal, and environmental sectors.

‘To ensure sustainable technical capacity in Fiji, we have been training master’s students funded by ACIAR on conducting quality research through a public-private partnership arrangement with various stakeholders. We are continuing outreach on AMR with our partners’.

The MHMS Chief Medical Advisor, Dr Jemesa Tudravu, said the threat of AMR to human health will only increase over the next decade if we don’t do enough now to address it.

‘The NAP is a demonstration of how the Fijian Government has continually stepped-up, making AMR a high priority health agenda. More awareness needs to be raised on the severe repercussions of AMR, and we are proud to have the support of our multi-sector work partners in raising the profile in the fight against AMR,’ he added.

ACIAR Research Program Manager for Livestock Systems, Dr Anna Okello, said the NAP was an important document that would support Fiji’s policymakers in preparing for future outbreaks.

‘This project, through a strong partnership, is aimed at strengthening the overall health systems in Fiji to respond to other disease outbreaks,’ said Dr Okello

‘Fiji was the first Pacific nation to develop a national AMR action plan. The renewed National Action Plan is a testament to Fiji’s commitment to addressing AMR. It also demonstrates the value of regional technical partnerships between Australia and our Pacific partners in addressing regional public goods such as AMR.’

Dr Okello said that the project would continue strengthening the cross-sectoral collaboration between human health, animal health, and the environmental sector and, in the future, will have the potential to scale-out to other Pacific island countries.

The Enhancing the management of antimicrobial resistance in Fiji is a 5-year project implemented by CSIRO through the Research for One Health Systems Strengthening Program in partnership with the Indo-Pacific Centre for Health Security, the University of Technology Sydney, the University of South Australia, the Fiji Ministry of Health and Medical Services and Fiji National University.

Learn more about the project here. Read the Fiji Government AMR NAP 2022-2025 here.