Maternal and neonatal tetanus

As of December 2016, IFFIm has provided US$ 61.4 million for the Maternal and Neonatal Tetanus Elimination initiative to help accelerate progress towards the Millennium Development Goals

Maternal and neonatal tetanus Vietnam

Credit: Gavi/2009/Dan Thomas.

Mother and newborn child: one of the most heartwarming and uplifting scenes anyone can witness. Yet a newborn child dies every nine minutes worldwide due to the simple lack of a clean delivery and resulting tetanus infection.

The Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, with funds from IFFIm, is helping to reverse this devastating disease, in partnership with UNICEF, WHO, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and many other partners. This is necessary because many tens of thousands of maternal and neonatal tetanus (MNT) deaths still occur each year in developing countries.

The full extent of the problem is hard to pinpoint because many deaths occur during home delivery. But MNT deaths were measured at 59,000 worldwide in 2008.

Two doses of tetanus toxoid

The good news is that MNT is easily preventable through immunisation. That's where Gavi and IFFIm come into the picture. Two doses of tetanus toxoid (TT) vaccine will protect mother and child - if they can get them. The women who most need the vaccine live in rural, tough-to-reach areas. Supplemental immunisation - up to five doses - are required in these areas.

Strong case for IFFIm funding

This underlines MNT as particularly strong case for funding by IFFIm, which spent US$ 61.4 million to fight the disease as of June 2015, and continues to sustain MNT elimination efforts.

Tens of millions of women have been vaccinated under the campaign, with additional funds used to confirm elimination of MNT in specific countries.

In addition to immunisation, proper hygiene during and after delivery, as well as education of young women also are critical.

Mauritania village

Consider one rural village in Mauritania.

When the school's headmaster announced the arrival of the tetanus vaccination team, 14-year-old Lalla Vatma and several of her schoolmates were excused from class as part of an immunisation drive targeting future mothers at the Oualata Secondary School.

The visit to Lalla's school was part of the second round of the campaign, during which over 600 health agents reached 233,000 women of childbearing age at schools, marketplaces and remote areas.

Myanmar success story

Among the recent success stories is Myanmar which in 2010 eliminated  maternal and neonatal tetanus, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The achievement came after a multi-year campaign to immunise all pregnant women.

Myanmar was the second country in East Asia after Vietnam to reach MNT elimination status - 1 case of MNT per 1,000 live births - measured through WHO surveys and analysis. Over a seven year period, 6.7 million women of child-bearing age in Myanmar were targeted, and more than 80% were protected with two doses of TT.

10 years of partnership

In 10 years, Gavi and partners worldwide, have helped to:

  • Provide more than 90 million women with  two or more doses of TT vaccine;
  • Eliminate MNT in 20 countries (Bangladesh, Benin, Burundi, Comoros, Egypt, Eritrea, Malawi, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, South Africa, Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Togo, Turkey, Vietnam, Zambia, and Zimbabwe), and 15 States of India and 18 provinces of Indonesia. There still are 38 countries where MNT is targeted for elimination;
  • Achieved as of 2008, about 90% reduction of NT mortality in the last 20 years. 

>10 million

Since its inception in 2000, Gavi has helped developing countries to prevent more than 10 million future deaths through its support for routine immunisation programmes and vaccination campaigns.

WHO/UNICEF and Gavi 2018

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