The Ministry of Public Health and the WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean organized a regional meeting titled "Data for Action: Using antibiotic consumption data to improve prescription and stewardship activities."

A total of 50 representatives from 11 countries in the Eastern Mediterranean region participated, along with experts from the WHO headquarters in Geneva, regional and country offices, as well as the World Organization for Animal Health, the Gulf Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, and universities such as the University of Washington, and the University of Melbourne.

The meeting discussed the effective use of several data sources on antimicrobial consumption by the participating countries, as well as developing a roadmap for the next three to five years for the effective use of this data to enhance policy-making processes and to improve the prescription and use of antibiotics by healthcare providers and the public.

Antimicrobial resistance poses a significant threat to public health globally, particularly in the Eastern Mediterranean region, where data shows a growing resistance among several microorganisms to multiple medications. The ability for organisms to become resistant to medications is known as multi-drug resistance (MDR). This resistance makes the treatment of common infectious diseases challenging, occasionally leading to increased mortality rates, especially among vulnerable groups such as the elderly, children, and those with compromised immune systems. The most significant factor driving antimicrobial resistance is the improper use of antibiotics, a particularly acute issue in the 22 countries within the Eastern Mediterranean region, as some are currently facing conflicts that weaken their healthcare systems.

Dr. Jameela Al Ajmi, the National focal point for Antimicrobial Resistance and Infection Prevention & Control at the Ministry of Public Health, stated, "The Ministry of Public Health has taken several steps to improve the use of data generated through our national AMC surveillance systems, and we are honored to take this opportunity to share our experience with the rest of the countries in our region."

She added, "We are very proud to co-host this event with EMRO/WHO, and to contribute to the improvement of the national efforts to curb the increase of antibiotic resistance. Utilizing national antibiotic consumption data will provide an opportunity to understand how we manage antibiotics and how we can optimize our utilization."

Dr. Abdullatif Alkhal, Chair of the National AMR Committee in the State of Qatar, commented, "Antimicrobial resistance is a global public health problem that requires collaborative efforts across all sectors and countries to be able to reduce the burden of the problem. The spread of MDROs multi-drug resistant organisms does not respect country borders. Hence, collaboration such as this regional meeting is an integral part of our journey to control the increase in AMR. We look forward to working together to move the agenda of AMR forward while leaving no one behind."

Dr. Rana Hajjeh, Director of Program Management at WHO EMRO, noted, "The Eastern Mediterranean region has the highest and the most rapidly rising levels of antibiotic consumption across all the WHO regions. Antibiotics are very precious and essential medicine, an asset we would like to preserve. However, in our region, we face a double challenge: first, we have inappropriately high use of antibiotics in several countries, and second, there is poor access to essential antibiotics in many countries. Our aim is to improve the access, availability, and use of antibiotics through proper market shaping. This would require building capacity for our national drug regulators and country officials to better use available antibiotics consumption data to support decision making." Dr. Hajjeh also stressed the World Health Organization's commitment to reducing antimicrobial resistance, adding, "The WHO is committed to work with partners and governments to increase investment and capacity building to support these efforts."

Dr. Rayana Bou Haka, WHO's representative in Qatar, stated, "The joint organization of this important regional meeting is an opportunity to showcase the synergies and collaborative efforts of MOPH Qatar and WHO towards this critical health issue. It is also an opportunity for Qatar Health institutions to transfer knowledge and provide their technical capacity, thus serving the regional health agenda."
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