Grant continues Kiwanis' commitment to fighting tetanus

Erin Chandler | Aug 19, 2022

A woman wearing a black and white head covering in Aden, Yemen, receives a tetanus vaccine.

*Photo credit: © UNICEF/UN0623697/ALfilastini

Kiwanis International is proud to continue its work with UNICEF to protect mothers and babies from maternal and neonatal tetanus (MNT).

A painful and deadly disease, MNT disproportionately affects areas where poverty, lack of education and inadequate health infrastructure make unhygienic birth practices more common. In 2010, Kiwanis launched The Eliminate Project, a global campaign to eliminate MNT, by supporting UNICEF’s efforts to administer vaccines and promote clean delivery and umbilical cord care practices.

Now the Kiwanis Children’s Fund continues that commitment with a US$500,000 grant to UNICEF to help complete the project’s work in the 12 countries where MNT remains a threat.

Since Kiwanis joined the fight against MNT, newborn deaths from tetanus have dropped 57%, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In 2011, 159 babies died every day from tetanus, but by 2020 that number had dropped to 66. Of the 59 priority countries assessed to have more than one case of neonatal tetanus per 1,000 live births in 1999, 47 have since achieved MNT elimination — thanks to the combined efforts of UNICEF, WHO, Kiwanis and others.

The fight against maternal and neonatal tetanus is not done, however. COVID-19 pandemic restrictions have delayed and disrupted immunization campaigns for diseases such as MNT in targeted countries. In South Sudan, one of the countries that has not met MNT elimination goals, 91% of all pregnant women deliver in their homes without access to a skilled birth attendant, increasing their risk of tetanus infection.  

The Children’s Fund grant will help UNICEF deliver the tetanus vaccine and supplementary immunization activities to all women of childbearing age in countries like South Sudan, Sudan, the Central African Republic, Guinea and Yemen, where poverty and conflict have both increased the scope of the problem and made it a greater challenge to alleviate. Immunization programs will be supported with efforts to provide education on and greater access to safe and hygienic birthing practices.

The Eliminate Project contributed to great progress in the fight against MNT, and UNICEF hopes to use the new grant from the Kiwanis Children’s Fund to build on that success. In the Central African Republic, for example, 1.7 million women of reproductive age have been vaccinated against the target of 1.73 million, and money from Kiwanis can help to complete the last round of necessary immunizations.

“After 12 years, we remain dedicated to our work with UNICEF in bringing about a world where no baby dies of tetanus,” says Stan Soderstrom, executive director of Kiwanis International and the Kiwanis Children’s Fund. “These are more than just numbers — they are lives saved. The Kiwanis family should be proud of its ongoing international impact.” 


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