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Afghan maternal and neo-natal tetanus vaccination campaign reaches 3.6 million women

KABUL, 20 June 2004 – Figures now collated from around Afghanistan show that at least two doses of tetanus toxoid vaccine have been administered to more than 3 million Afghan women in 2004, and that 3.6 million women of child-bearing age have received at least one dose, following a nationwide vaccination campaign.

The campaign, led by the Afghan Ministry of Health with the support of UNICEF, WHO and other agencies, is part of an on-going effort to bring five doses of tetanus vaccine to 4 million women of child-bearing age in Afghanistan. Three doses of tetanus toxoid vaccine over a 12 month period are sufficient to provide five years of immunity to both mother and newborn child, while five doses will provide life-long immunity. The third round of immunization, which must take place at least six months after the second dosage, is scheduled to be held next year.

This year’s drive follows a successful pilot campaign in 2003, which reached more than 800,000 women aged between 15 and 45 years of age.

The 2004 campaign, which was held in March and May, utilised nearly 20,000 team members including 6,800 vaccinators. Many vaccinators were women themselves, more than 1,000 of whom were illiterate. The equipment used to deliver tetanus vaccine is relatively simple, and with just basic training non-medical workers can safely administer the dosage. This means that more women can be used as vaccinators – an essential factor in gaining access to women in their homes.

Tetanus is a major killer of newborn children – approximately 200,000 infants and 30,000 women die from the disease each year in developing countries. Pregnant women and their babies are especially at risk, as infection is often contracted through non-sterile cutting of the umbilical cord and passed onto the newborn child. The Ministry of Health, UNICEF and WHO are committed to eliminating maternal and neo-natal tetanus in Afghanistan by the year 2005.

The 2004 campaign is generously supported by Japan and the United States.

For further information please contact:
Edward Carwardine, UNICEF Media - +93 (0)7960 7400




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