Since we have closed our official five-year fight to end MNT, it would serve us well to remind ourselves what is still at stake. Already our efforts have this deadly disease on the run. Let's continue our efforts to raise funds and contribute to the cause; let's achieve the goal of each of our model clubs completing their pledges. By continuing until the international goal is reached, we can save many more lives!
In 24 countries around the world, maternal and neonatal tetanus (MNT) can quickly turn the joy of childbirth into tragedy. MNT kills one baby every nine minutes. Its effects are excruciating - tiny newborns suffer repeated, painful convulsions and extreme sensitivity to light and touch. There is little hope of survival. And tetanus kills mothers, too.
MNT is caused when tetanus spores, found in soil everywhere, come into contact with open cuts during childbirth. The disease strikes the poorest of the poor, the geographically hard to reach and those without health care.
Yes! MNT is highly preventable. Just three doses of a 60-cent immunization protect mothers, who then pass on the immunity to their future babies. Together, Kiwanis and UNICEF can stop this disease.
UNICEF has helped to successfully eliminate MNT in many countries. But in 23 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America, it still strikes babies and mothers who have little or no access to health care - either because they are poor, live in remote areas, or are caught in humanitarian emergencies. More funds and resources are needed to reach all babies and mothers at risk.
More than 100 million mothers and their future babies must be immunized. This requires vaccines, syringes, safe storage, transportation, thousands of skilled staff and more. It will take US$110 million - and the dedicated work of UNICEF and every member of the Kiwanis family. Over half of this amount has already been raised, and we are in the final stage of obtaining commitments to provide it!
It is unacceptable that innocent newborns and their mothers suffer and die from MNT when it can be prevented so easily. This is also an amazing opportunity to reach the poorest, most neglected mothers and babies with lifesaving health care. Developing delivery systems for MNT vaccines will blaze a trail to provide additional desperately needed services to these marginalized families.
Hand in hand, Kiwanis and UNICEF will eliminate MNT and change the world. Kiwanis' commitment, vision, and strength in reaching communities and leaders will help wipe out this cruel, centuries-old disease and pave the way for other interventions. UNICEF has staff working in the most isolated corners of the globe and an unbeatable supply chain.