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Global Alarm: Ukraine’s AMR Crisis Goes Beyond Borders


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Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) has emerged as a significant global health crisis with far-reaching consequences.

Recent developments, such as the alarming spread of drug-resistant infections among conflict-affected populations and governance challenges in addressing AMR, have brought this issue to the forefront. In this comprehensive research article, we examine the multifaceted dimensions of AMR, from its implications in conflict zones to the need for global governance and accountability.


The Ukrainian Conflict and the Spread of AMR:


The ongoing conflict in Ukraine has highlighted the profound health effects that wars can have beyond their immediate impact. A troubling case emerged in a US military hospital in Germany, where doctors encountered a wounded Ukrainian soldier with an infection resistant to almost every available antibiotic. This alarming episode, detailed in a paper by the US Centers for Disease Control, illustrates how conflict can exacerbate the problem of AMR.


Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014, Western Europe has witnessed a surge in drug-resistant infections, with a significant portion affecting Ukrainians. Scientific papers have documented this concerning trend, shedding light on how conflict can facilitate the spread of disease.


Factors Contributing to the Spread of AMR in Conflict Zones:


Several factors contribute to the proliferation of drug-resistant infections in conflict zones. Toxic heavy metals in bullets, deep wounds, damaged hospital and hygiene infrastructure, limited access to diagnostic tests, indiscriminate use of antibiotics, and population movement all play a role. These challenges make it difficult to implement conventional measures to combat antibiotic resistance.


Rising Infections Amidst Refugee Movements:


The movement of evacuated troops and civilians from conflict zones has led to a further increase in antibiotic-resistant infections. Some infections appear to have originated during stays in Ukraine’s strained healthcare systems, while others have been transmitted within countries receiving refugees. This underscores the transnational nature of the AMR crisis.


Governance Challenges Amid Economic and Political Fallout:


Despite the growing threat of AMR, the economic and political repercussions of conflicts and crises have diverted the attention of governments from mitigating the health threat. Recent UN General Assembly meetings saw the passing of resolutions on disease, but progress in securing fresh funding or firm obligations to implement change has been limited.


The Call for Global Governance and Accountability:


Dame Sally Davies, the UK’s special envoy on AMR, advocates for a stronger and more focused resolution on AMR, including measures to track progress and hold nations accountable. The challenge of AMR is global, and addressing it requires collaboration among multilateral organizations and a framework agreed upon by countries.


Halting the Growth of AMR:


Efforts to combat AMR have proven challenging, even in well-resourced healthcare systems. Measures to curb AMR include improved prescribing, compliance, infection control, and constraints on environmental pollution and the excessive use of antibiotics in animals. However, these efforts have fallen short in many instances, highlighting the urgency of the issue.


Discrepancies in National Action Plans and Data:


While most countries have developed national action plans on AMR, an evaluation led by researcher Jay Patel at the University of Edinburgh revealed widespread discrepancies in their quality. These plans often overreport strengths and under-report weaknesses, lacking in accountability.


The Poor Quality of Data and the Urgent Need for Accountability:


AMR-linked deaths, estimated at 1.27 million annually worldwide, suffer from poor data quality. Countries investing in better surveillance and accurate data may be penalized, while infections transcend national borders. Efforts to address AMR must include improved data collection and sharing.


A “Grand Bargain” for AMR:


The Center for Global Development proposes a “grand bargain” that balances responsibilities among industry, governments, and multilateral organizations. Wealthier countries would support innovation and poorer countries’ access and AMR plans, while the latter would ensure responsible stewardship of new drugs.




Antimicrobial Resistance is an intricate global challenge that transcends borders and conflicts. It calls for a concerted effort to address the spread of drug-resistant infections, improve governance, and foster accountability. The urgency of AMR necessitates collective action, innovative solutions, and a commitment to safeguarding the effectiveness of existing drugs. The consequences of inaction are dire, with AMR posing a significant threat to global public health.

Muhammad Arshad
Muhammad Arshad
Mr Arshad is is an experienced journalist who currently holds the position of Deputy Editor (Editorial) at The Think Tank Journal.

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