UNICEF Canada staff member Melanie Sharpe shares how tetanus vaccination campaigns help women in a country with the highest maternal death rate in the world.
I met a woman named Ajok Madut on a recent journey to the remote town of Kuajok in South Sudan. Ajok was with two of her three children, 9-month-old Mauout and 3-year-old Acol.
Ajok has given birth seven times, but only three of her children are alive.
Each time Ajok gave birth she was at home—a small hut—by herself. Before giving birth, she would place a blanket down on the floor. Once the baby arrived she cut the umbilical cord herself with a razor blade.
South Sudan has the highest maternal death rate in the world.
For every 100,000 births, more than 2,000 women will die. This means women have about a one in seven chance of dying from pregnancy-related complications in their lifetimes..
Ajok is one of the lucky mothers.
I met Ajok under a huge tree behind the Kuajok primary healthcare unit where UNICEF had set up a tetanus vaccination point as part of a seven-day vaccination campaign to protect women from maternal and neonatal tetanus.
People of all ages can get tetanus, but it’s particularly serious for newborn babies and women who have no choice but to give birth in unclean environments—women like Ajok.
The effects are devastating. Within days, tetanus spreads through a baby’s body, causing convulsions and difficulty breathing. In places with limited health care like South Sudan, People of all ages can get tetanus, but it’s particularly serious for newborn babies and women who have no choice but to give birth in unclean environments—women like Ajok.95 percent of babies who contract neonatal tetanus will die.
Reaching women like Ajok in remote communities is vital to eliminating maternal and neonatal tetanus.
You can help women like Ajok with a gift to The Eliminate Project. And for a limited time during this Mother’s Day season (March 1 – June 15), you can do it in honor of your mom, the mother of your children or a special person in your life. This is your chance to protect the connection between millions of mothers and babies.