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Congo, Democratic Republic of the

UNICEF and Pampers partner up to protect mothers against neonatal tetanus

KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo, 11 November 2011 – Fany Kibwe is six months pregnant. She lives in Mukanga Moke, a small, rural village 15 kilometres from the nearest health centre in the southern section of DR Congo. This will most likely mean that Fany will deliver her baby at home, a prime situation for contracting tetanus.

VIDEO: UNICEF reports on UNICEF and Pampers partnering up to protect mothers against neonatal tetanus.  Watch in RealPlayer


“Most women give birth at home” explained Emmanuel Kalwazi, chief nurse for the Mabaya area, “So if she gets contractions at night and delivers at home and if the midwife doesn't used sterilized equipment and the mother is not vaccinated against tetanus, there's a chance that the baby will be infected and the prognosis will be death.”

Emmanuel has never seen a newborn survive tetanus.

Life-saving vaccination

Globally, the lives of 130 million women and their babies living in the hardest to reach areas of the world's most under privileged countries are at risk from Maternal Neonatal Tetanus (MNT). Emmanuel and his team, based at the Kaniaka Health Centre, provide outreach to distant villages and tetanus vaccinations are part of the pre natal programme.

VIDEO: Interview with Dr. Rownak Khan, UNICEF Senior Health Specialist speaks about Maternal and Neonatal Tetanus elimination.  Watch in RealPlayer


Arriving on bicycle, the team set up in the shade of a huge tree and explained the need for vaccination to a queue of pregnant women - Fany is one of the first in line.

“For me it’s important to get vaccinated while I'm pregnant,” she said “It protects us against diseases and here in Congo there are so many epidemics so that’s why I need to get vaccinated every time.”

Globally MNT claims the life of one newborn baby every nine minutes. Working with UNICEF, who has partnered with Pampers since 2006 to eliminate MNT, DR Congo has rolled out a pervasive vaccination network to ensure every woman of child bearing age is immunized against the killer disease. The village outreach and vaccination of pregnant women in rural areas, is the final step in a complex, but essential distribution process.

Facing obstacles

Here, in the country's southern Katanga province, the rollout begins in the regional capital, Lubumbashi. Vaccines are flown in from the capital, Kinshasa, and packed into cooler boxes. As the vaccines are catalogued, health workers from the community health centres begin to arrive by bicycle to collect the new batches. Guy Bakatumaka arrives from the Kaniaka health centre, 30 kilometres away. He brings with him a small, portable cooler box, a vital step in the cold chain


Guy Bakatumaka arrives on bicycle from the Kaniaka health centre, 30 kilometres away, to deliver life-saving vaccines. Many of the health workers will spend up to four days on a round trip, covering distances of up to 300km.

“We have to collect the vaccines, because it’s important that we vaccinate pregnant woman against tetanus because according to the millennium development goals we have to reduce the morbidity and mortality and improve the health in our country,” he explained.

On his arrival at the Kaniaka health centre, the vaccines are unpacked, the register opened, and the syringes prepared. In addition to his outreach programme, Emmanual also provides pre- natal services at the health centre for those villages within walking distance and every pregnant woman who comes to the clinic is vaccinated against tetanus. Those who are reluctant are soon convinced, as one of Emmanuel's many roles is to overcome any religious or cultural barriers against vaccination.

Pregnant women receive life-saving tetanus vaccinations to ensure their babies will be born healthy.

Back at Fany's village, Mukanga Moke, vaccinations continue into the afternoon. No one here knows the journey the life saving vials have taken, or the role people like Hugues and Guy have played in getting them to these remote villages. But they benefit because of it, babies are born without tetanus and children grow up  healthy.

Pampers, in collaboration with UNICEF is helping protect over 100 million mothers and their babies from Maternal neonatal tetanus in 25 of the world's poorest countries. By the end of 2011,  several of those countries are expected to have completed their MNT campaigns.
 Thanks to everyone who supports partners like Pampers to donate vaccines, UNICEF can continue to to help protect those women and children most in need.




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