|© Isaac Brekken/Getty Images for UNICEF|
|At the Kiwanis convention in Las Vegas, Nevada (from left), Kiwanis International President Paul Palazzolo, UNICEF Ambassador and actor Téa Leoni, and US Fund for UNICEF President and Chief Executive Officer Caryl Stern celebrate the announcement of 'The Eliminate Project' on maternal and neonatal tetanus.|
By Elizabeth Kiem
NEW YORK, USA, 25 June 2010 – Kiwanis International has selected UNICEF to be its partner in a $110 million effort to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus (MNT) globally by 2015.
UNICEF Ambassador Téa Leoni made the announcement yesterday at Kiwanis International’s 95th annual convention in Las Vegas. The project will mobilize nearly 600,000 Kiwanis volunteers to help raise resources and awareness about MNT as part of their mission to serve the world’s children.
This new support will allow UNICEF to immunize 129 million women who are at the greatest risk of contracting tetanus during labour and delivery.
“Kiwanis believes that no baby or mother should have to suffer the devastating effects of MNT,” said Kiwanis International President Paul Palazzolo.
A preventable disease
The World Health Assembly first called for elimination of neonatal tetanus, a preventable but highly fatal disease, in 1989. Ten years later, the goal was expanded to include elimination of maternal tetanus, as well.
|© Kiwanis International/2010/Brockley|
|A mother and baby in Basay village, located in Negros Oriental, the Philippines, one of 40 countries that remain at risk for maternal and neonatal tetanus.|
With the newly announced Kiwanis partnership, UNICEF will have the power to reach the 40 remaining countries where the disease is still a risk.
“We couldn’t be more gratified to work with such a committed and compassionate group of people,” said Caryl Stern, President and CEO of the US Fund for UNICEF, which submitted the winning proposal for Kiwanis International’s second Worldwide Service Project.
Critical health services
‘The Eliminate Project,’ as it is known, aims to provide an estimated 387 million doses of tetanus vaccine to women of child-bearing age over the next five years. But it endeavors to go beyond tetanus vaccination and forge a path towards providing critical health services to some of the world’s most marginalized and impoverished communities.
|A young woman receives a tetanus vaccination in Lelan village, located in Chittagong district, Bangladesh.|
“There are countless worthy issues you could have chosen,” Ms. Leoni told the convention. “The one you chose is a public health crisis that plays out silently in much of the world.”
Tetanus kills nearly 100,000 mothers and newborns each year, mainly due to inadequate immunization coverage, lack of safe-delivery services and improper post-partum care. The majority of these deaths occur in 40 countries located in Africa, East Asia and South Asia. The mothers at risk are women who have not had the chance to be diagnosed or properly treated. Most have little or no access to hospital treatment.
Successful global partnership
UNICEF and Kiwanis joined forces in 1994 on Kiwanis’s first global campaign for children – the elimination of iodine deficiency disorders (IDD), the leading preventable cause of mental impairment among children. IDD is prevented through the simple iodization of table salt.
|© US Fund for UNICEF/2010/Banbury|
|Kiwanis International representative Lenora Hanna meets a mother and newborn child at Dumaguete City Health Centre in the Philippines, where a Kiwanis delegation travelled recently to see UNICEF’s tetanus-elimination efforts firsthand.|
Today, about 70 percent of people in the developing world have access to iodized salt, a tremendous increase from less than 20 percent who had such access in 1990. More than 80 million children in developing nations will be born free of IDD this year, an accomplishment that ranks among the greatest health triumphs of the past century.
During a video tribute played during the announcement in Las Vegas, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Sir Roger Moore noted the accomplishment shared by Kiwanis International and UNICEF, acknowledging “a large debt of gratitude to Kiwanis.”
“I know you will be successful on your next journey,” he told the assembled Kiwanians and UNICEF staff.
For more information on The Eliminate Project to end deaths from MNT, visit www.kiwanis.org/wsp.
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