MAPUTO, Mozambique - 23 November 2010 – Mozambique has joined the ranks of the 19 countries that have eliminated maternal and neonatal tetanus since 2000, according to a validation survey conducted last month in compliance with World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines.
Elimination of maternal and neonatal tetanus is defined as an incidence of less than one case per 1000 live births in every district of the country.
The community-based validation survey was conducted by Mozambique’s Health Authorities with support from UNICEF and WHO in two districts in the south and central regions of the country where incidence of neonatal and maternal tetanus was highest. No neonatal death from tetanus was observed during the survey period, confirming that maternal and neonatal tetanus has been eliminated as a public health problem in the country.
The survey findings also show that 87 per cent of mothers of eligible live births had received at least two doses of tetanus toxoid vaccine, and 64 per cent of deliveries were assisted by a medically-trained birth attendant.
“Commitment, hard work and partnerships are paying off,” said UNICEF Representative Jesper Morch. “This milestone demonstrates that delivering life-saving vaccines to the poorest and most isolated communities brings results, and we will make every effort to sustain this progress.”
Maternal and neonatal tetanus is a swift and painful disease that kills thousands of mothers and their newborns every year. The disease is the result of unhygienic birth practices, leading to contamination of the umbilical cord with tetanus spores when it is being cut or dressed after delivery.
To reduce the risks, the Mozambican health system complements the routine maternity services in health facilities with community health workers and traditional birth attendants who are trained to refer pregnant women to health facilities, including home delivery kits to ensure clean delivery practices in case of home delivery.
The World Health Assembly first called for the elimination of neonatal tetanus in 1989. In 1999, the goal was expanded to include the elimination of maternal tetanus as well. At that time there were 57 countries where maternal and neonatal tetanus had not been eliminated. The figure was revised to 58 in 2002 to include Timor Leste.
The goal of the initiative is to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus from the 58 countries where it was still a public health problem in 1999. As of October 2010, 19 of these countries have achieved MNT elimination, leaving 39 countries that still have not eliminated the disease.
For more information, please contact:
Thierry Delvigne-Jean, UNICEF Mozambique,
Tel + (+258) 21 481 121;
Gabriel Pereira, UNICEF Mozambique,
Tel + (+258) 21 481 100;
Christian Moen, UNICEF New York
Tel + 212 326 7516