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Immunization campaign works to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus in Mauritania

© UNICEF Mauritania/2009/Perez
Lalla Vatma smiles as she waits for her tetanus immunization in Oualata, Mauritania.

By Fadila Hamidi

OUALATA, Mauritania, 24 June 2009 – When the school’s headmaster announced the arrival of the tetanus vaccination team, Lalla Vatma, 14, and several of her schoolmates, were excused from class.

Lalla was in the group of girls who were to be vaccinated, as part of an immunization week targeting future mothers at the Oualata Secondary School.

Jealous, the boys in the class asked why they couldn’t be part of the campaign as well. The teacher explained that this immunization campaign was aimed at protecting the girls and, in the future, their babies against tetanus, which can be contracted during childbirth from contaminated medical instruments.

Five doses for lifetime protection
The mobile vaccination team consisted of a volunteer and a midwife. They were helped by the headmaster, who visited all of the classrooms and urged the teachers to encourage the girls to get vaccinated.

Lalla was more nervous the last time the immunization team visited, when she received her first dose of vaccine. Then, the midwife encouraged her by explaining the importance of immunization and the risks faced by unvaccinated women and girls, and the fact that only five doses can protect a girl for life against tetanus.

After they had finished in the school, the mobile team travelled downtown to the market place to provide immunizations there.

Strong participation
The goal of the immunization campaign is to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus in Mauritania. The visit to Lalla’s school was part of the second round of the campaign, during which over 600 health agents covered 26 high risk districts – using both fixed and mobile teams.

© UNICEF Mauritania/2009/Perez
A midwife notes that Lalla has completed her second round of tetanus immunization.

In all, the health agents reached 233,000 women of childbearing age at schools, in marketplaces and in the most remote rural areas.

The first round was also a great success. Participation was strong due to the visible results of the past measles immunization campaigns that have led, in recent years, to marked reductions in measles infections in Mauritania. Such results have reduced the population’s resistance to routine immunizations.

The immunization campaign is being managed by the Ministry of Health with the support of the Ministry of Education, UNICEF and the World Health Organization, as well as several national and international organizations, and private-sector partners.



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