Mauritania: drive to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus
Nouakchott, Mauritania, 16 June 2009 - Lalla Vatma, 14, leaves her classroom with some of her classmates. The school headmaster has already announced a day earlier the arrival of the tetanus vaccination team. The day before; the headmaster has visited all the classrooms and urged the teachers to encourage the school girls’ to get vaccinated during the widely announced immunization week. The expected mobile team consists of a volunteer and a midwife.
In this rather small school of Oualata, home to some 3,000 inhabitants, only 10 girls aged between 14 and 17 years are concerned. They all have already been vaccinated during the first round of this campaign a month ago.
Lalla Vatma remembers when her boy classmates were getting rather jealous during the first round of the campaign and they asked the teacher why girls were chosen to be vaccinated. The teacher then explained that it was only an immunization targeting future mothers to protect them and their new babies against tetanus, a "silent killer" which often results from unsanitary conditions at delivery.
The teacher then asked the boys “have you ever seen any pregnant boys?”. He suggested that boys can and should be vaccinated against others killer diseases such as measles during the routine vaccination activities in the health center.
As the midwife completes her immunization card to acknowledge that she received the second shot of MNT vaccine, Lalla Vatma is already looking forward to the next and final round that will ensure her immunity for life.
Once the vaccination campaign has been completed in the school, the mobile team continues its activities in the market place downtown.
One more week to save lives
The aim of the campaign is to eradicate maternal and neonatal tetanus. Progress has already been made but more efforts are still to be made. Latest available data shows that only 60 per cent of the newborns are protected against tetanus.
The immunization week was made possible through the concerted efforts of the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, UNICEF, WHO, with the support of several national and international organizations and the private-sector.
By Fadila Hamidi