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An immunization week for tetanus elimination in Mauritania

© UNICEF Mauritania/2009
Aichatou, 14, gets immunized against tetanus in the health centre of Lejouad in Mauritania.

NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania, 18 May 2009 – It was 14-year-old Aichetou’s first time in the health centre in her small village. Her community received an invitation call via radio to attend the tetanus vaccination campaign being held at Lejouad, 200 km from Nouakchott.

The radio message warned women about the dangers of tetanus and the benefits of vaccination. When the day arrived, women in the village were waiting impatiently to get vaccinated.

“I understand that a single dose is not enough to completely protect myself from this horrible disease,” said Aichetou. “I know that next month I will come back for a second round.”

Immunization is the best way to protect women and their newborn babies against tetanus. When five doses are administered to a mother, it offers her a lifetime protection against an insidious disease that kills before it can be clinically identified and treated. Newborn babies are also at great risk from tetanus and can die during their first month of life.

Coverage for all
The mobile vaccination team arrived on site at the beginning of a planned immunization week and then spread out to cover the scattered and inaccessible population. Vaccination days are an opportunity to reach rural women who live in remote areas with limited access to health care and, therefore, are more vulnerable.

Immunization guarantees women safety from tetanus and ensures the safety of their newborn children.

Vaccinations also took place at the same time in the Akjoujt health centre in the Inchiri region, carried out by a permanent vaccination team led by a woman from Akjoujt.

© UNICEF Mauritania/2009
A team supervises immunization in the health centre of Akjoujt.

“She has managed to mobilize all the women in town to come and get vaccinated," said the head of the health centre. "We hope for an immunization coverage exceeding 80 per cent in the region. Also, the immunization rounds are an opportunity for our health agents to discuss with mothers the importance of their vaccination and the health care continuum for both mothers and for the newly born children.”

One week to save lives
Mauritania’s immunization week took place this year from the 26 to 30 April as part of a campaign to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus that was launched in 2008 by the Ministry of Health. During that week, 521 agents and 30 supervisors covered 26 districts, using fixed and mobile teams to reach most women at schools, in the markets and in the most remote rural areas.

The week was widely covered by national media through announcements on radio and television, and promoted by local community mobilization teams in the villages.

The immunization week was led by the Ministry of Health, with the support of the Ministry of Education, UNICEF, the World Health Organization, several national and international organizations, and private-sector partners.



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