Maternal and neonatal tetanus or MNT is responsible for the deaths of 50,000 babies a year in developing countries. So, Kiwanis International joined the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to eliminate this disease with the Eliminate Project. In June 2010, Kiwanis announced the Eliminate Project at the 95th Annual Kiwanis International Convention and pledged to eliminate MNT from mothers and newborns in poverty by 2015.

The Eliminate Project’s goal is to raise money for vaccinating pregnant women whose babies might be at risk of MNT. MNT is caused by bacteria found in the soil of developing countries. The disease spreads through unhygienic birthing practices and causes intense pain to the newborn, killing the baby within five to six days.

However, MNT is easily preventable if the mother takes three doses of the Tetanus Toxoid-Containing Vaccines (TTCV). The solution is cost-effective too; the total cost of these doses is only $1.80.

UNICEF has made excellent progress to combat this disease with 90 percent of its funds going directly to the cause. Kiwanis has also made progress by raising $110 million for the Eliminate Project with many fundraising projects. According to the World Health Organization, the number of newborns in poverty dying of neonatal tetanus went from 787,000 in the late 1980s to only 34,019 in 2015.

Kiwanis and UNICEF have been successful in decreasing the prevalence of the disease in a number of countries, but there is still more work to be done. There are mothers and babies in 19 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and North America who are contracting the disease with little to no healthcare. On a positive note, there are 13 countries that scheduled immunization campaigns in 2016, and Kiwanis clubs around the world are relentlessly raising money to eliminate MNT once and for all.

Emma Majewski

Photo: Flickr