IMPACT
06/13/2011 12:27 am ET | Updated Aug 11, 2011

UNICEF And Kiwanis Join To Eliminate Maternal/Neonatal Tetanus

Maternal/neonatal tetanus (MNT) kills 60,000 newborns each year. Even more tragic is the fact that the disease can cheaply and effectively be eliminated with a vaccination and sanitary delivery practices.

That’s why Kiwanis and UNICEF have teamed up to create The Eliminate Project, to wipe out MNT once and for all by 2015. To do that, they say they’ll need to immunize 129 million mothers and their future babies across 38 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and North America.

MNT occurs when tetanus spores infect open cuts during childbirth; it’s one of the most common deadly effects of unsanitary delivery practices and improper umbilical cord care. It has extremely high mortality rates, especially when appropriate medical care is not available. Most victims are babies and mothers who have little or no access to health care, due to poverty or living in remote locations.

According to The Eliminate Project, it takes only three doses of a 60-cent immunization to protect mothers, who then pass on the immunity to their babies. While tetanus can’t be entirely eradicated (because tetanus spores are present in soil worldwide), by immunizing pregnant women and those of child-bearing age, and promoting hygienic deliveries, MNT can be eliminated (which the World Health Organization (WHO) defines as less than one case of neonatal tetanus per 1000 live births in every district). The Project estimates it will need $110 million to cover the required vaccines, syringes, storage, transportation and staff.

"It’s really a heart-wrenching tragedy," Jo Lynn Garing, public relations manager for Kiwanis International told HuffPost. "Tetanus is something that strikes the poorest of the poor, it strikes infants right after they’re delivered… a baby dies a heart-wrenching death and it’s completely preventable. $1.80 can provide one women with three doses of the tetanus vaccine and protect her and her future babies."

According to WHO, in the late 1980s, the estimated annual global NT mortality rate was approximately 6.7 deaths per 1,000 live births. The World Health Assembly called for its elimination, and by 2008, the NT mortality rate had been reduced by 92 percent. Garing says the goal of this partnership is to cover the final ground.

"[UNICEF] had been working on eliminating MNT since 1999, and today have eliminated it in 20 countries. I believe they were looking for a partner to provide that final push and raise that last amount of money," she said.

Kiwanis has been working on organizing their campaign structure and goals, and plans to announce their fundraising campaign at their annual convention in a few weeks. Garing says that most of the money will be raised through "classic Kiwanis fundraisers" -- grassroots efforts ranging from golf tournaments to car washes.

Kiwanis and UNICEF previously partnered on an iodine deficiency disorder campaign in 1994 in which they successfully increased access to iodized salt in developing countries from 20 percent to 70 percent.

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Kiwanis International is a global organization, comprising nearly 600,000 adult and youth members in 80 countries and geographic areas, dedicated to serving the children of the world and developing youth leaders. Find a club near you or support their foundation. UNICEF provides children with health and immunizations, clean water, nutrition, education, emergency and disaster relief, in more than 150 countries. Learn how to volunteer for UNICEF, or give to one of their programs.

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