UNICEF Fights To Eliminate Maternal Neo Natal Tetanus

Every nine minutes, somewhere in the world a baby dies as a result of maternal and neonatal tetanus (MNT). The effects of this disease are excruciating. Tiny newborn babies suffer from extreme sensitivity to touch and light and also experience repeated painful convulsions. Babies suffering from this dreadful disease have little chance of survival and more worrying is the disease can kill the mother too.

The good news is there is a solution, immunization, which protects both the unborn babies and their mothers. Vaccinations cost just 60 cents and the total cost of protecting mother and child is less than $2.

One example is Senegal where MNT was recently eradicated in 2012 and there is marked impact on infant and maternal health.

Three years ago Ami Seck who was just 17 lost her first child to MNT. The death was terrible and like many women in Senegal she delivered her child on the concrete floor outside her house. Traditional birthing nurses made use of an unsterilized blade when cutting the umbilical cord and this of course placed the baby at high risk of developing tetanus.

Ami’s mother-in-law was the first person to notice there was something wrong but instead of seeking modern medical assistance the family turned to traditional medicine to find a cure for the baby’s uncontrollable trembling.

Mame Touty Seck said that it took the family a whole week following the birth of the child to go see a medical doctor who quickly diagnosed tetanus.

Mother and child were referred to a regional hospital but it was just too late for the little boy who died 10 days after being admitted.

It was very painful and difficult having to bear witness to the death of her son and it is something Ami and her family desperately wished they could have avoided.

Unfortunately there are still 25 countries where MNT is still a threat and more often than not it is the poorest women who live in the most remote location and are the furthers from medical help that are most at risk.

UNICEF has sponsored a maternal health care and immunization program to fight MNT and as a result Ami’s second pregnancy when very smoothly.

Her mother-in-law puts it simply: “We are a living example of how you can get out of the maze. There are all sorts of care you can expect and benefit from. The second time around we did it properly and since then everyone is following in our footsteps.”

UNICEF has partnered with Kiwanis to eliminate MNT. The commitment, strength and vision of Kiwanis’ in reaching the communities that are most at risk is helping to eradicate this centuries old cruel disease has been inspirational. UNICEF has its staff working globally and a world class supply chain that enables it to reach every woman in need of drugs to fight MNT.

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