Health Committee Briefing

The Question of Combating Increasing Antibiotic Resistance:

Ever since antibiotics became widely available about 50 years ago, they have been hailed as miracle drugs; able to destroy any bacteria. But with each passing decade, bacteria that resist not only single, but multiple, antibiotics (making some diseases particularly hard to control) have become increasingly widespread. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), virtually all-significant bacterial infections in the world are becoming resistant to the antibiotic treatment of choice.

The CDC estimates that, each year, nearly 2 million people in the United States acquire an infection while in a hospital, resulting in 90,000 deaths. More than 70 percent of the bacteria that cause these infections are resistant to at least one of the antibiotics commonly used to treat them.

Antibiotic resistance, also known as antimicrobial resistance, is not a new phenomenon. Just a few years after the first antibiotic, penicillin, became widely used in the late 1940s, penicillin-resistant infections emerged that were caused by the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus).

Why is antimicrobial resistance a global concern?

Here are some to think about…

AMR kills

Infections caused by resistant microorganisms often fail to respond to the standard treatment, resulting in prolonged illness and greater risk of death. The death rate for patients with serious infections treated in hospitals is about twice that in patients with infections caused by non-resistant bacteria.

AMR hampers the control of infectious diseases

AMR reduces the effectiveness of treatment, thus patients remain infectious for a longer time, increasing the risk of spreading resistant microorganisms to others.

AMR threatens a return to the pre-antibiotic era

Many infectious diseases risk becoming untreatable and uncontrollable, which could derail the progress made towards reaching the targets of the health-related United Nations Millennium Development Goals set for 2015.

Facts on antimicrobial resistance

In 2011 there were an estimated 630 000 cases of MDR-TB among the world’s 12 million cases of TB. Globally, 3.7% of new cases and 20% of previously treated cases are estimated to have MDR-TB, with substantial differences in the frequency of MDR-TB between countries.

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The Question of Ensuring the Safety of Health Workers in Conflict Situations

Traditionally, aid workers have been treated as neutrals by parties to armed conflict, a tradition that has been codified numerous times in international law. However attacks on humanitarian aid workers are on the rise despite their legally protected status (Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the addition Protocols of 1977).

If health workers are injured in various conflict zones it is not only the life of the worker at risk but also to those whom the worker was treating. In the Iraq war alone over 2 million media and aid workers were killed- this number is unbelievably high and has, as a consequence, led to a shortage of volunteers who are willing to go out to conflict situations as they fear for their lives.

Assaults not only result in obstructed access to health services but pose a formidable challenge to health systems, limiting the effective operation of health systems during instability and impeding the development of health infrastructure and meeting human resources needs once stability returns.

In 2011 the ICRC investigated sixteen countries about the safety of the health workers and how health services were in danger in their conflict zones. Their report showed that 1,834 people giving or receiving care and others were killed or injured, of whom 20.1% (368/1834) were already wounded or sick and 8.7% (159/1834) were health-care personnel.

The full report can be found using the link below:

Focus Questions:

  1. What has the history of your nation been with regard to either providing or accepting humanitarian assistance? What obstacles have you faced in doing so?
  2. What organisations of the United Nations would be most effective in reducing violence against Aid Workers?
  3. How much impact does violence against Aid workers have on aid projects?

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