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World Antimicrobials Awareness Week

Statement by Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

18 November 2020

Resistance to anti-microbial medications is one of the top 10 global public health threats, according to WHO. The growth of resistant bacteria, viruses and other pathogens is nourished when we overuse or misuse antibiotics – and it means that when people fall ill, there might be no medication that can effectively protect them.

This is an important human rights issue – and it is especially urgent for children's right to health.

Children's immune systems are not fully developed, making them more vulnerable to diseases caused by drug-resistant microbes. In deprived areas with inadequate access to health-care, children are especially likely to be threatened by the spread of drug-resistant malaria, pneumonia, tuberculosis and so on. Anti-microbial resistance is a major threat to child survival and health.

As a paediatrician, and as the UN High Commissioner for human rights, I call for accelerated efforts by governments to ensure access to good quality drugs and medicines; to prevent over-prescription of antibiotics and other antimicrobials; and to ensure that information campaigns help people avoid misusing and overusing these products. The COVID-19 pandemic makes this preventive work especially important.

We must give all children access to effective, live-saving antimicrobials when they need them. I support WHO in its efforts to help countries address this growing threat to children's lives.