UNICEF's Shantha Bloemen reports on a massive immunization campaign working in Cameroon to wipe out tetanus.
Tags:Immunization Against Neo-Natal Tetanus in Cameroon,Immunization campaign for neo-natal tetanus,Immunization campaign in Cameroon,neo-natal tetanus,preventing neo-natal tetanus,unicef,united nations childrens fund
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Immunization Campaign for Neo-Natal Tetanus in Cameroon
Shantha Bloemen: In the forests of northwest Cameroon Bridget Apum is deepened through the graveside of her granddaughter Aya. Deep in thought over life lost. Aya died of tetanus at just over two weeks old. All that remains is just a small amount of gravel under which she was buried.
She contracted the disease during delivery and her mother is now seriously ill and has been taken to a distant hospital. While easily preventable through vaccination and in-clinic hygienic delivery practices, maternal neonatal tetanus is still a major cause of maternal and neonatal deaths. It takes the lives of thousands of mothers and newborns each year.
Most neonatal tetanus develops through unhygienic cutting and care of the umbilical cord during delivery usually by unskilled birth attendants. This is what happened to baby Aya.
Bridget Apum: My daughter went in to labor in the evening but there was no car to take her to the clinic to deliver, so we called the local midwife and she came and delivered the baby. She cut the umbilical cord with a razorblade from the market.
Shantha Bloemen: In 2002, the Cameroonian government began a national plan to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus. But the vaccination is a three-step procedure and while coverage for the first stage was high, many women never returned for their second or third shots.
The goals were to reach at least 90% of women with the second shot, at least 80% of the women with the third and ultimately to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus in Cameroon.
Dr. Belyse Halmata: And now it’s very important to finish with the districts that are still at high risk of tetanus. Those are districts where cases of tetanus have been notified.
Shantha Bloemen: The campaign targeted women between the ages of 15 and 49 and was carried out at health centers, village gathering points and even schools. UNICEF, through a fundraising partnership with Pampers, supplied the vaccines, provided logistical support to get them to remote areas and helped to train health workers who were dispatched to makeshift vaccination centers
Esther Neba: Her baby that she’s carrying in the womb. And the woman who is not protected against tetanus, that baby is exposed. So we find it very necessary, very important for women of childbearing ages to protect that against tetanus.
Shantha Bloemen: The UNICEF-Pampers maternal neonatal tetanus campaign has raised 300 million vaccinations to date and carry on distributes 21 countries around the world including Cameroon.
But for baby Aya, it has all come too late. Her grandmother tidies the rumor, which she born and then just over two weeks later died. If all goes to plan no more babies will die of neonatal tetanus in Cameroon and normal families will suffer lost through this fatal yet preventable disease.
This is Shantha Bloemen reporting for UNICEF Television. For more information go to UNICEF.org. Unite for Children.