Students Against Superbugs – Champions in the fight against AMR
Young Kenyan advocate, Daniel Waruingi, is making his mark in the world by raising awareness about one of the most pressing issues of our time….antimicrobial resistance (AMR).
Daniel’s interest was sparked a few years ago when a university lecturer told the story of a child who had died when an antibiotic-resistant infection spread through the hospital ward. Moved by the tragedy, he decided there and then he wanted to play his part in bringing down the high number of deaths from antibiotic-resistant infections, particularly in African countries.
Together with a fellow student, he founded “Students Against Superbugs Africa” (SAS), with the aim of mitigating the threat of AMR in African communities.
Daniel and his team initially rallied the support of medical students, but over the past four years, the organization has grown to include early career professionals and a cross-section of students from various faculties in colleges and universities in Kenya and several other African countries. As “AMR champions,” they have organized events and set up various initiatives on campuses as well as raised awareness in schools, clinics and communities.
SAS offers both technical and financial support to the teams in various countries to enable them to establish sustainable structures to ensure their engagement on AMR is both consistent and scalable.
In turn, SAS has been supported by the AMR advocacy network, ReAct Africa, The Foundation to Prevent Antibiotic Resistance, Centre for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, and Data Action Impact. Daniel and his team also offer educational training and materials on infection prevention and control (IPC) and antibiotic stewardship, as well as research and innovation using a One Health approach.
The Students Against Superbugs YouTube channel features a vibrant collection of over 60 videos on AMR, including online training and presentations from experts.
“We try to break down the information and explain it in a way that everyone can understand,” says Daniel. “We’ve also started to develop toolkits in local languages. There’s a strong focus on IPC – simple steps like washing your hands and finding ways to limit the spread of infection, despite the huge challenges in many of our countries, including the shortage of running water in many of our clinics and hospitals.”
Apart from sharing information with others, the AMR champions have also learnt valuable lessons they will carry with them as the next generation of antibiotic users, healthcare workers and policymakers.
“They now have the knowledge, skills and passion to make a difference in combating AMR and to realize how vital it is to prescribe and dispense antibiotics correctly,” says Daniel.
With counterfeit and substandard drugs on the rise in many countries, Daniel and his team also share information on how to access safe and effective antibiotics.
“It is vital for people to understand the dangers of using counterfeit, expired and substandard medication. AMR affects our health systems in a brutal way. Far too many people are dying and suffering from infections that have become resistant to the antibiotics we use. We need to develop new antibiotics and do all we can to preserve the ones we have.”
Daniel has won several awards for his work but considers his biggest prize as getting more people to understand the importance of preventing and treating drug-resistant infections.
“It’s very inspiring to see young, motivated people going out of their way to raise awareness of AMR,” he says. “Whether our careers lead us into law, music or medicine, all of us are trying to play our part to improve our health and curtail the spread of AMR. Our end goal is to have a global youth movement, originated in Africa, to mitigate against AMR.”
This story was made in collaboration with ReAct.