Gates Foundation gives 10 million to UN fight against deadly maternal tetanus

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Noting that at a cost of just $1.20 per woman, UNICEF can eliminate these needless deaths with a safe and effective vaccine that has been available in the developed world for more than 70 years, the agency called the gift, an extension of $26 million given in 1999, a challenge grant to encourage other donors and foundations to contribute. In order to achieve elimination of MNT worldwide by 2005, UNICEF needs to raise an additional $147 million. An estimated 207 million women still need to be immunized. “The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s financial commitment to the elimination of MNT will help save the lives of millions of newborns and their mothers,” Charles J. Lyons, president of the US Fund for UNICEF, said in a news release. “Because of the campaign to eliminate MNT and the support of the Gates Foundation, as many as 15,000 lives are saved annually.” MNT strikes when tetanus spores, found in soil everywhere, come into contact with open cuts during childbirth in unsanitary conditions. Within days, tetanus spreads throughout the body, causing spasms, paralyzing stiffness and arching of the spine. Eighty per cent of newborns and mothers who develop the disease die from it. The vaccine protects mothers for up to 10 years and their newborn babies for the critical first few months of life. UNICEF is implementing a three-pronged approach to eliminating tetanus: immunization; promoting clean deliveries – UNICEF is helping train health workers in clean birthing techniques and teaching communities about the dangers of tetanus; and surveillance – UNICEF and its partners identify areas in which mothers and newborns are at risk of tetanus, measure the quality of immunizations and clean delivery services, and monitor a country’s elimination status and the sustainability of its achievement.

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