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First National Campaign to eliminate tetanus in mothers and newborns launched in Guinea-Bissau

BISSAU, 26 May 2007 – The first national campaign to eliminate tetanus in mothers and newborns was launched today in Guinea-Bissau. Approximately 330,000 women and girls, 15 – 49 years old have been immunized free of charge thanks to the technical and financial support provided by UNICEF. Tetanus is a disease caused by naturally occurring bacteria in the environment that enter a body through open wounds. It is estimated that it kills around 500 newborns every year in Guinea-Bissau.

This campaign is part of a worldwide goal to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus as a public health threat. The regional objective is to eliminate tetanus by 2009.

“Women in age of having babies must be immunized against easily avoidable deaths caused by tetanus,”  said Jean Dricot, UNICEF Bissau Representative. “This vaccination to be conducted now, in July and in December 2007 will protect mothers and babies born in environments with lack of hygiene and inefficient health services.”

UNICEF sensitized other partners including other UN agencies, international and national NGOs, as well as traditional and religious leaders to assist the Ministry of Public Health with this campaign.

“The vision of UNICEF made possible the holding of this campaign. With the support and participation of all Bissau-Guinean it will be a success,” said the WHO representative in Guinea-Bissau.

According to the Minister of Public Health “the health of the mother and the children is a national priority.”  This goes in line with the Millennium Development Goals four and five on the reduction of child and women’s mortality.

“All of us from the Italian Committee for UNICEF are really enthusiastic. We have seen a whole country mobilized to move a step forward towards eliminating tetanus,” said Donata Lodi, Director of External Relations of the Italian Committee for UNICEF. “We are proud to see UNICEF mobilizing all sectors to unite for children”.  

This campaign will be used for the promotion of breastfeeding and hand washing as key strategies for child mortality reduction in Guinea-Bissau.

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For further information, please contact:

Yolanda Nunes Correia, Communication Specialist, UNICEF Guinea-Bissau: Tel + (245) 20 35 81 - Fax: (245) 20 35 86
email: ycorreia@unicef.org




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