Tetanus the target of UNICEF-funded campaign across Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone launched a week-long national campaign against tetanus today in which the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is funding the provision of a vaccine to over 1 million women and almost 100,000 children to combat the potentially deadly disease, which often occurs after an acute injury, such as a puncture wound or laceration.
The West African nation has one of the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the world, with 167 out of every 1,000 children dying before their fifth birthday and 1,300 women dying for every 100,000 live births, UNICEF said in a press release. Eliminating maternal and newborn tetanus will help to cut those rates and the campaign is expected to increase community awareness on the importance of maternal and child health.
“Sierra Leone cannot afford to be left behind in the global campaign to reduce infant deaths due to modern vaccines and medical breakthroughs,” said UNICEF Representative Geert Cappelaere, while visiting a vaccination centre in the capital Freetown.
The Integrated Child Survival Campaign on Maternal and Neonatal Tetanus will run until 23 April, and involves the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, the World Health Organization (WHO), and other partners in providing 1.2 million women of child-bearing age and 85,000 children aged six months to five years with tetanus toxoid vaccine, deworming and iron folate.
According to the Minister of Health and Sanitation, Abator Thomas, the campaign will ensure that cost-effective measures are applied to save children from unnecessary death due to vaccine-preventable diseases such as neonatal tetanus, and also that children will have unhindered access to the Pentavalent, or five-in-one, vaccine.
UNICEF is providing at least 1.1 million doses of tetanus toxoid vaccine, almost 1,900 tins of vitamin A, more than 20,500 tins of deworming tablets and 8,800 tins of iron, as well as support for social mobilisation, technical aspects and the training of volunteers, worth over $1.4 million.
More than 7,000 vaccinators and volunteers from the Ministry of Health and Sanitation are being deployed in 900 peripheral health units and other temporary fixed points, including schools across the country to support the campaign. The involvement of district councils will ensure that no child is left out.
Neonatal tetanus accounts for 14 per cent of all deaths in newborn babies in Sierra Leone as a result of unhygienic birth practices, especially when tetanus contaminates the baby’s umbilical cord at the time it is cut or dressed after delivery. Maternal tetanus strikes a woman during pregnancy or within six weeks of the termination of pregnancy. It is caused by a contamination from tetanus bacteria through wounds linked to abortions or deliveries that are unsafe or unclean.