Cameroon on course to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus by 2011
Cameroon one of forty countries working to eliminate the ‘silent killer’
Yaoundé, Cameroon 14 October 2010 – Cameroon is on course to eliminate Maternal and Neonatal Tetanus (MNT) by December 2011, thanks in part to funding from UNICEF’s global Pampers partnership, which has supported the country’s tetanus campaigns since 2008 and has to date raised funds for 300 million tetanus (TT) vaccines worldwide.
Whilst MTN continues to threaten the lives of 170 million women and their newborn children, causing the death of over 59,000 babies each year worldwide (WHO, 2008), Cameroon has taken great strides towards its elimination through regular and mass vaccinations campaigns. Current TT coverage is 77% (2009), close to the 80% target, resulting in just 108 reported MNT cases in 2008.
Caused by bacteria which thrive in soil and rust, tetanus can be contracted by mothers and newborns through unsanitary conditions during childbirth. Although preventable through a series of TT vaccinations which when given during pregnancy protect both mother and child from the disease, women who have not been vaccinated remain at risk of MNT. Most vulnerable are women and children living in isolated and hard to reach areas as they are often unable to access vaccinations and adequate healthcare and are subject to unsanitary birthing practice, often due to extreme poverty.
“When my daughter Christelle was pregnant she wasn’t fully vaccinated against Tetanus, because the outreach nurse was unable to get to our village” says Sophie Ngan, who’s family live in rural Eastern Cameroon and who suffered the loss of a grandson to tetanus following his homebirth. “One evening very soon after my grandsons birth, he starting crying and wouldn’t take his mother’s milk so the next morning we borrowed some money and took him to the local hospital. At the hospital they told us he had tetanus. They tried to treat him, but he just got worse, became stiff and started to change colour. We didn’t know what to do”. After a week of treatment Ms Ngan grandson died. “We hadn’t even had the chance to give him a name.”
To achieve elimination by December 2011, UNICEF in partnership with the government, will continue its strategy of ensuring that all pregnant women and women of childbearing age receive the minimum two doses of TT vaccine, training and advising social mobilisers and community members to promote vaccinations, promoting clean birth and delivery, and working with communities and health providers to report all MNT cases. In addition, UNICEF will support two further tetanus ‘catch up’ vaccination campaigns planned for 2010 and 2011 in 16 high risk health districts across Cameroon targeting over 400,000 women.
“I was vaccinated because I wanted to protect myself and my baby from tetanus” says Gbezonga Sidonie, who gave birth to seven month old Didja after having a full set of TT vaccinations. “At the health centre the nurses explained the dangers - that tetanus can kill - and outreach workers would come to my village every month and explain to mothers the importance of getting the vaccine. I’m proud of my choice, and proud that I have protected my baby.”
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