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For every child, end AIDS

UNICEF 'Mother-Baby Pack' helps prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV

A gift of life for mothers and babies at risk

© UNICEF/NYHQ2009-0704/Nesbitt
Agness Chabu smiles as she finishes bathing her 10-week-old son, Lackson, at their home in Lusaka, Zambia. Ms. Chabu participates in a programme on prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, through which Lackson received prophylactic anti-retroviral treatment after his birth and an HIV test at six weeks of age.

NEW YORK, 7 May 2010 – Mother’s Day, which is celebrated in many countries on the second Sunday in May, presents a dual opportunity for UNICEF. The holiday recognizes the care and devotion of mothers around the globe. It’s also a chance to raise the funds urgently needed to help women and children who face overwhelming challenges of poverty, disease and malnutrition.

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This Mother’s Day, UNICEF’s national committees – which support the organization’s work through fundraising and advocacy in 36 industrialized nations – are offering a gift that both pays tribute to mothers and gives donors a chance to make a potentially life-saving donation.

That gift is UNICEF’s new Mother-Baby Pack.

Impact in eastern and southern Africa

The pack is an innovative response to the devastating impact of the HIV epidemic in the region where it hits hardest – eastern and southern Africa. Of all the world’s 2.1 million children living with HIV, some 90 per cent are found there.

© UNICEF/NYHQ2010-0243/Markisz
In a Mother-Baby Pack, components are packaged in a colour-coded box containing antibiotic and anti-retroviral medications for HIV-positive pregnant women and their newborn babies.

Every day, more than 1,000 babies are infected with HIV by mothers who are themselves living with the virus. Transmission takes place through the very processes that nurture and sustain new life: pregnancy, labour and delivery, and breastfeeding. 

Without medical intervention, at least half of those babies born with HIV will die before their second birthday. But the right anti-retroviral medicines, given at the right time, can prevent HIV transmission and protect the health of mother and baby.

Stopping the spread of HIV

This approach, known as prevention of mother-to-child transmission – or PMTCT – is the best way to stop the spread of HIV in young children. When mothers and babies get the full course of drugs on schedule, from pregnancy through breastfeeding, PMTCT is highly effective.

© UNICEF/NYHQ2009-1963/Nesbitt
In Samfya, Zambia, Mirriam Chongo (right), who participates in a programme on prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, watches as her mother wraps Ms. Chongo’s newborn son, Peter, in a blanket.

For many mothers and infants in developing countries, daunting obstacles stand in the way of receiving a full course of drugs to prevent infection. An impoverished pregnant woman living far from a clinic, for instance, may be unable to afford long, repeated trips for treatment over many months. And not all countries have health systems that are strong enough to maintain drug stocks or track patient progress.

The Mother-Baby Pack overcomes these problems by giving pregnant women living with HIV a complete, pre-packaged set of drugs to prevent transmission of the virus to their children.
What’s more, the pack reinforces the importance of clinic visits for mothers and babies; mothers receive it from health-care workers during pregnancy and return during breastfeeding to have their infants tested for HIV.

‘The tradition of caring’

Based on an idea developed by health workers in Lesotho, the Mother-Baby Pack gives mothers direct control over protecting their children from infection. It will be rolled out in four sub-Saharan countries: Cameroon, Kenya, Lesotho and Zambia.

UNICEF’s United Kingdom National Committee is among those offering the Mother-Baby Pack this year as an ‘Inspired Gift’ for supporters to purchase in the name of a loved one.

“Mother’s Day is an opportunity for all of us to reflect not just on our own mothers but on the grave challenges facing mothers and children in the developing world,” said UNICEF UK Executive Director David Bull.

“UNICEF's Mother-Baby Pack is a perfect gift for mothers on this important day, or any other day of the year,” he added. “It lets each of us honour our mums by carrying on the tradition of caring they instilled in us -- and providing life-saving aid for a mother and child who desperately need it.”

Flowers, candy and other traditional Mother’s Day gifts are enjoyable in themselves. But gifts such as the Mother-Baby Pack offer a lasting reward: the knowledge that they will provide happiness to others, not just through hours and days, but across the years and over entire generations. Like mothers themselves, they provide the gift of life.




UNICEF's Shantha Bloemen reports on a campaign in Lesotho to help expectant mothers living with HIV avoid transmitting the infection to their children.
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