Humanly Possible: Immunization triumphed in eliminating maternal and neonatal tetanus in Mali.

In July 2023, the World Health Organization announced that Mali had successfully eliminated maternal and neonatal tetanus (MNT), an excruciating disease that kills tens of thousands of infants every year.

24 May 2024
Kadidia Cissé, sage-femme au CSCOM de Bellafarandi en train de sensibiliser les femmes sur l'importance de la vaccination chez les femmes enceintes, en se servant d’une boîte à images.
UNICEF/UNI551262/Keïta
Kadidia Cissé, sage-femme au CSCOM de Bellafarandi en train de sensibiliser les femmes sur l'importance de la vaccination chez les femmes enceintes, en se servant d’une boîte à images. Kadidia Cissé, midwife at CSCOM Bellafarandi, raising awareness of the importance of vaccination among pregnant women, using a picture box.

Joint press release: Ministry of Health and Social Development - WHO - UNICEF.

BAMAKO, 24 May 2024 - Vaccinations have played a critical role in improving public health worldwide, with recent data highlighting their significant impact in saving lives. A major landmark study published by The Lancet reveals that global immunization efforts have saved an estimated 154 million lives – or the equivalent of 6 lives every minute of every year – over the past 50 years. The vast majority of the lives saved – 101 million – 65.6% of lives saved, were those of infants.

The study, led by the World Health Organization (WHO), shows that immunization is the single greatest contribution of all health interventions to ensuring babies not only see their first birthdays but continue leading healthy lives into adulthood. 

In July 2023, the WHO announced that Mali had officially eliminated maternal and neonatal tetanus, a major advance for public health in a country where maternal and infant mortality rates are among the highest in the world. This status was confirmed following a detailed evaluation, which demonstrated that Mali meets WHO's standard of having less than one case of neonatal tetanus per 1,000 live births in each of its health districts. The effectiveness of vaccines in preventing this disease in both mothers and newborns has been instrumental in achieving this incredible milestone, showcasing the tremendous benefits of immunization programs.

"This achievement reflects the joint effort of various stakeholders who are dedicated to improving public health,” stated Dr. Col. Assa Badiallo Touré, Minister of Health and Social Development. “Vaccination has proven to be an indispensable tool in preventing diseases and saving lives, and we must continue to prioritize and reinforce immunization programs."

Through a comprehensive strategy to strengthen vaccine delivery systems, Mali has been at the forefront of this life-saving endeavor, notably with a focus on eradicating maternal and neonatal tetanus. The country has successfully eliminated this deadly disease thanks to a concerted effort by the Government, healthcare professionals, WHO, UNICEF, GAVI and with the support of other partners.

"Vaccines are undoubtedly one of the greatest achievements of modern medicine, and their impact on public health is immeasurable," said Dr. Itama Christian, Acting Representative of WHO in Mali. "Thanks to the efforts made, we have gone from prevention to eradication of diseases, which makes the use of vaccines an impressive success against diseases and the preservation of the health of future generations."

The study found that for each life saved through immunization, an average of 66 years of full health were gained – with a total of 10.2 billion full health years gained over the five decades. As the result of vaccination against polio more than 20 million people who would otherwise have been paralyzed are able to walk today, and the world is on the verge of eradicating the disease, once and for all.

These gains in childhood survival highlight the importance of preserving immunization progress in every country of the world and accelerating efforts to reach the 67 million children who missed out on one or more vaccines during the pandemic years especially the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Mali, a comprehensive strategy to strengthen systematic vaccination played a pivotal role. Health Centers across the country were equipped with solar refrigerators to store vaccines efficiently and provided with motorcycles and vehicles to facilitate the delivery of vaccination services.

“The remarkable milestone achieved in Mali aligns with UNICEF global endeavor to eliminate vaccine-preventable diseases,” said Pierre Ngom, UNICEF Representative. “Sustained efforts, funding, and collaboration were key to ensuring equitable access to vaccines and to further expanding the impact of immunization programs. By continuing to prioritize vaccination, countries around the world can collectively build on the progress made and pave the way for healthier communities.”

UNICEF, as one of the largest buyers of vaccines in the world, procures more than 2 billion doses every year on behalf of countries and partners for reaching almost half of the world’s children. It also works to distribute vaccines to the last mile, ensuring that even remote and underserved communities have access to immunization services. These efforts are crucial in increasing immunization coverage.

As the world grapples with the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for global vaccination efforts is more critical than ever. The success story of Mali in eliminating tetanus serves as an inspiration and a testament to the power of vaccines in saving lives. Now more than ever, it is essential that governments everywhere prioritize investment in immunization to protect one of humanity’s greatest achievement, because no child should die of an illness we know how to avert. Together, we can build a world where preventable diseases no longer pose a threat. It is Humanly Possible.

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Media contacts

Fatou Diagne
Communication Specialist
UNICEF Mali
Tel: + 223 71 17 03 55
Abdoulaye Cissé
Communication Officer
WHO Mali
Tel: +223 63 62 31 35

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