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Mauritania tackles maternal and neonatal tetanus with UNICEF's help

© UNICEF Mauritania/2010
Aichatou, 16, and her mother, Fatimatou, walk to the immunization site in Boumbry, Mauritania.

BOUMBRY, Mauritania, 3 March 2010 – With their immunization cards in hand, Aichatou, 16, and her mother, Fatimatou, recently visited a vaccination site in their village to be protected from tetanus.

This visit supplied them with the third of five doses needed to give them immunity from the deadly disease. The fourth dose will be given to them next year, and the last and final one a year after that.

Prior to the launch of a tetanus campaign in Mauritania last year, a social mobilization agent visited Aichatou and Fatimatou at home, advising them where and when to be immunized – and explaining the importance of completing all five rounds of vaccination.

Ensuring protection from tetanus

The agent reminded the women that immunization is the best way to protect themselves and their newborn babies against tetanus. Health workers said they appreciated this support, which helped to overcome local resistance to the programme and ensured that women were informed about the benefits of tetanus immunization.

© UNICEF Mauritania/2010
Aichatou’s vaccination card shows that, so far, she has had two of the five required rounds of tetanus vaccination.

When five doses are administered to a mother, it offers her a lifetime of protection against a disease that often kills before it can be clinically identified and treated. Due to unsanitary conditions during delivery, newborn babies are also at great risk from tetanus and can die during their first month of life if infected.

The first two rounds of the tetanus immunization campaign in Mauritania were carried out in April and May 2009. The third round took place in January of this year. Vaccination teams spread out to reach as many people as possible, especially in isolated regions, where women are most vulnerable.

More than 200,000 women aged 14 to 45 were targeted in the third round of the campaign, which is being conducted by the Ministry of Health, with support from UNICEF and the World Health Organization.




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