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How Antimicrobial Resistance Poses A Serious Threat To Global Health Today

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Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) is a fast-rising medical concern, one that needs the global community’s immediate attention. Yet, awareness regarding the issue and the potential threats it carries are just being understood. Further, large pockets of the world are still oblivious to the problem. So while policy measures shape the world slowly and substantively, awareness and information should take leaps and bounds to prevent potential mishaps.

What Is AMR?

The United Nations defines AMR as the ability of a microorganism to stop an antimicrobial such as an antibiotic from working against it. As a result, standard treatments become ineffective, and infections persist and spread to others. Ever since the advent of antibiotics back in the early 1940s, the way we understand sickness has changed. Life-threatening diseases became commonplace conditions that could be cured with some pills and a few days of rest.

Yet, as the drug companies produced stronger antibiotics, the infecting bacteria also became stronger. Not only do resistant bacteria survive and multiply, but they also spread the resistant gene to other bacteria. In effect, conditions that could previously be cured using antibiotics can become life-threatening. And for many people (up to 10 million a year by 2050), AMR will prove fatal.

The causes of AMR are several, of which, only a few have been understood. Yet, as a recent study points out, AMR is such a big concern that the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals will depend on how well the global community can address this problem.

It is well-known that excessive antibiotic consumption can cause AMR. This can happen because of a poorly-regulated market, such as the one in India where prescription drugs are sold over the counter. It can also happen because of misinformed medical practitioners prescribing potent antibiotics for commonplace fevers. Another reason can be that patients themselves seek potent antibiotics to heal quickly. This trend is particularly marked in the lower middle-classes where missing a day’s work can have a palpable effect on the family’s income.

Antibiotic misuse is a leading cause of AMR.

Human consumption of antibiotics is not the only cause of AMR. These drugs are fed to livestock to prevent them from falling ill, and to help them grow faster. Chickens pumped with antibiotics grow to thrice the size of an average chicken. They also never fall sick. When these chickens are slaughtered and sold to the meat market, the resistant bacteria from the animals are transferred to the human gut.

This doesn’t end here. The environmental implications of AMR are substantial. Animal faeces, especially from the cow, are used as manure for crops. This manure carries resistant bacteria which then proliferate inside the plant and subsequently enters the human gut. Water that comes in contact with such soil also becomes contaminated. Large-scale dumping of antibiotic waste into water supplies by big pharmaceuticals also contributes to the problem. Thus, one way or another, we are surrounded by potential AMR triggers, and with each passing day, the threat is getting worse.

Preventing AMR

One important step is stringent oversight on prescription-based medication to reduce over-the-counter purchases and increased awareness campaigns to inform people of the deleterious consequences of AMR. The Indian Council of Medical Research provides guidelines to prevent AMR by stepping up hospital sanitation which is also a concrete measure taken towards addressing the problem. While the government takes measures to address AMR, the real challenge will be to address it on a community level. Without a clear sense of responsibility on the individual level, AMR cannot be curbed in a hasty manner.

This means that every community needs to take upon itself the mandate to understand the nuances of AMR, and the ways it proliferates. Making regular checks of open drainage sources around the house, avoiding antibiotic use unless prescribed by the doctor, thoroughly washing vegetables and fruits before consuming them, and consuming boiled water, are some immediate measures that can be taken on an individual level.

As a community, it is imperative to think as a unit, and not simply for oneself. Organizing awareness campaigns to educate people around is an effective way to precaution people of potential threats of AMR. Tying up with local NGOs who provide support to underprivileged individuals is yet another measure that can lead to greater community engagement and awareness. Creating a database of medical shops that sell the prescription-based medication over the counter will go a long way in identifying defaulting shops that push the rise of AMR.

While solutions are innumerable and highly effective, we have to take the initiative and make the change. Otherwise, all our efforts will be too little, too late.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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