Written by David Shivers
Albany, Ga -It is a disease that is very preventable, yet it endangers the lives of newborn babies and their mothers in more than three dozen countries around the world.Maternal/neonatal tetanus (MNT) strikes “the poorest of the poor,” with an average death toll of 60,000 infants a year worldwide, as well as claiming a significant number of mothers. It is estimated that every nine minutes a baby dies from it in countries where medical services and resources are scarce.
Darlene Butler of Albany is a local chair for the Eliminate Project, a collaborative effort between Kiwanis International, UNICEF, and leading medical organizations to eradicate the disease. Their efforts have already been successful in 20 nations.
Butler spoke to the Kiwanis Club of Dougherty County about the effort on June 10, with a particular emphasis on fundraising. She emphasized that 100 million infants and their mothers remain at risk in 38 countries.
The international goal is to raise at least $110 million by 2015, through efforts large and small including the four Kiwanis clubs in the Albany/Lee County communities. Vaccinations can be done for 60 cents per shot, according to Butler, for a total of $1.80 for the three injections needed to complete the immunization process. Once fully vaccinated, mothers have immunity through their child-bearing years and the immunity is passed on to their babies.
MNT results from a lack of, or limited access to, immunization and prenatal care services; limited or absent sanitary delivery services; or improper postpartum umbilical cord care.
Butler and the Eliminate Project are seeking ongoing funding at the local level, and the Kiwanis Club of Dougherty County is already in process of exploring and implementing avenues to help meet the goal, through the club fundraisers and individual member commitments.
According to Butler, “This is a second opportunity to change the world.” Kiwanis International and UNICEF already have a successful track record after the conclusion of a partnership in the 1990s to fight iodine deficiency disorder (IDD). Thanks to that initiative – hailed as “one of the greatest public health triumphs of the 20th Century” – some 81 million children in the developing world will be free of IDD this year.