KABUL, 26 January 2003 - A groundbreaking campaign to immunize Afghan women against the killer disease tetanus will be launched on Saturday, 1 February by His Excellency Hamid Karzai, President of Afghanistan. The campaign, which is supported by UNICEF, aims to reach every woman of child-bearing age between now and the end of 2005 as part of a worldwide effort to eliminate the disease by that date.
Tetanus is a major killer of newborn children - approximately 200,000 infants and 30,000 women die from the disease each year in developing countries. Three doses of tetanus toxoid vaccine over a 12 month period are sufficient to provide five years of immunity to both mother and newborn child.
In Afghanistan immunization coverage levels are as low as 13 per cent.
The new campaign will involve the use of a innovative injection device, known as Uniject, which replaces the traditional syringe and needle. Because Uniject is single-use and simple to administer, non-professionally trained men and women can administer the tetanus toxoid vaccine.
One of the world's leading experts on tetanus immunization, UNICEF's senior advisor on tetanus, Dr. Francois Gasse, will be in Afghanistan this week to monitor the start of the campaign and begin planning a nationwide assessment of tetanus prevalence amongst women of child-bearing age. He will be making a special presentation to the media at the UN press briefing on Thursday 30 January. Dr. Gasse will also be available for individual interviews with journalists on request.
Further information on the tetanus immunization campaign and the launch with President Karzai will be made available at Thursday's briefing.
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For more information, please contact:
Chulho Hyun, UNICEF-Media, Kabul (0702 78493)