health

The deadly disease that's killing 49,000 babies every year.

Living in rural Chad, Halima Zenab had never heard of tetanus before it killed her newborn son, Mohammed.

Seeking treatment for little Mohammed, 21-year-old Halima visited the local clinic twice – and both times her baby was misdiagnosed. On her third trip, a different doctor noticed that Mohammed showed the classic signs of maternal neonatal tetanus (MNT) – a soaring fever, severe convulsions and inconsolable crying. But it was already too late, and six days later Halima’s newborn son passed away.

Maternal neonatal tetanus is a deadly disease that takes the lives of nearly 49,000 babies every year in poverty-stricken, developing countries like Chad.

maternal neonatal tetanus
Just three doses of the vaccine protects mothers. Image supplied.

MNT is passed from a mother to her newborn baby, when the umbilical cord is cut with an unsterilised blade, and it results in an excruciating, lonely death for the baby. An infected baby will experience repeated, painful convulsions and become extremely sensitive to light and touch - which means the baby is often left without its mother's touch, for days, before it eventually passes away.

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Until recently, MNT killed 548 babies a day. But thankfully Kiwanis International The Eliminate Project, which was launched in 1999, has successfully saved countless babies from an unnecessary death - and 40 countries have already achieved "elimination status".

MNT is easily preventable - just three doses of the vaccine protects mothers - and they pass this immunity on to their babies during pregnancy.

maternal neonatal tetanus
MNT is passed from a mother to her newborn baby, when the umbilical cord is cut with an unsterilised blade. Image supplied.

The Eliminate Project works with UNICEF to educate women, local leaders and community groups about the importance of immunisation, and to fund, store and distribute the vaccinations and syringes.

This Mother's Day UNICEF and Kiwanis International is hoping Australian mothers, and their children, might make a donation to help them work towards the goal of one day living in a world where no mother has to lose their child to this cruel, preventable disease.

You can purchase vaccinations for women that will protect them and their unborn children in the affected countries from MNT here

You can find out more about The Mother's Day project here

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