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UNICEF welcomes Kiwanis partnership to fight deadly maternal and neonatal tetanus worldwide

2010-06-24

TORONTO, June 25 2010 – UNICEF today welcomed the announcement of a new partnership with global volunteer network Kiwanis International to fight tetanus in women and children worldwide, a disease that kills around 60,000 newborns each year.

“This is a disease that affects the poorest of the poor; those who have the least access to healthcare,” said Dr. Nicholas K. Alipui, UNICEF Director of Programmes.  “If we are ever going to make the virtual elimination of maternal and neonatal tetanus into a meaningful impact for children, this is it.” The aim of this new campaign is the total elimination of maternal and neonatal tetanus by providing vaccinations and healthcare to children and women most at risk.

Most of the mothers and newborn babies who die of maternal and neonatal tetanus (MNT) live in 40 countries in Africa and Southern and East Asia. The disease kills one baby every nine minutes, and death is preceded by excruciating pain – tiny newborns suffer repeated, painful convulsions and experience extreme sensitivity to light and touch. Most of these babies die because they do not receive essential life-saving health care.

But maternal and neonatal tetanus (MNT) is totally preventable through immunization and hygienic birth practices. The Eliminate Project: Kiwanis eliminating maternal/neonatal tetanus aims to raise US$110 million over the next five years to provide help and immunization to women and children in countries where MNT is most prevalent. 

“This partnership with Kiwanis International will give us the tools we need to save the lives of women and children who desperately need our help,” said Alipui.

Immunization against MNT takes the form of three doses of vaccine for women of childbearing age, at a cost of roughly US$1.80 in total.  If a woman is properly vaccinated with the tetanus vaccine, she will have immunity throughout most of her child bearing years. Existing global efforts against MNT have already proven highly successful, and UNICEF and partners have eliminated the disease in 18 countries.

Between 1999 and 2009, 90 million women in some of the most remote places on earth were immunized during tetanus vaccination campaigns, and as a result thousands of women and newborns are safe from the prospect of death due to tetanus every year. These tetanus vaccination campaigns in remote, underserved and high risk areas also paved the way for the delivery of other life-saving services, such as clean water, nutrition and other vaccines. This new partnership will allow efforts to reach those who are still unprotected to receive the help they so desperately need.

Kiwanians and UNICEF have a history of working together to deliver results for children, most notably during a joint global campaign against Iodine Deficiency Disorders (IDD). These disorders are the single greatest cause of preventable mental retardation. Provision of iodine supplements is an effective means of preventing this retardation, and the UNICEF-Kiwanis campaign increased the world’s access to iodized salt from less than 20 per cent in 1990 to more than 70 per cent by 2000.

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About UNICEF
UNICEF is the world's leading child-focused humanitarian and development agency. Through innovative programs and advocacy work, we save children's lives and secure their rights in virtually every country. Our global reach, unparalleled influence on policymakers, and diverse partnerships make us an instrumental force in shaping a world in which no child dies of a preventable cause. UNICEF is entirely supported by voluntary donations and helps all children, regardless of race, religion or politics. For more information about UNICEF, please visit www.unicef.ca.

About Kiwanis International
Founded in 1915, Kiwanis International is a global organization of volunteers dedicated to changing the world one child and one community at a time.  Kiwanis and its family of clubs, including Circle K International for college students, Key Club for teens, Builders Club for adolescents, K-Kids for elementary students and Aktion Club for adults with disabilities, dedicate more than 18 million volunteer hours to strengthen communities and serve children annually.  The Kiwanis International family comprises 586,000 adult and youth members in 80 countries and geographic areas. For more information about Kiwanis International, please visit: www.kiwanis.org

Attention broadcasters:
Video footage is available free of charge at www.thenewsmarket.com/unicef

For further information:

Stefanie Carmichael, Communications Specialist, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8866; Cell: (647) 500-4230, scarmichael@unicef.ca.
Tiffany Baggetta, Director, Communications and Brand, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8892; Cell: (647) 308-4806, tbaggetta@unicef.ca.