In many countries, deliveries take place in unhygienic circumstances, putting mothers and their newborn babies at risk for a variety of life-threatening infections.
Maternal and neonatal tetanus (MNT) have been among the most common lethal consequences of unclean deliveries and umbilical cord care practices. When tetanus develops, mortality rates are extremely high, especially when appropriate medical care is not available.
The MNT Elimination Initiative aims to reduce MNT cases to such low levels that the disease is no longer a major public health problem. Unlike polio and smallpox, tetanus cannot be eradicated (tetanus spores are present in the environment worldwide), but through immunization of pregnant women and other women of reproductive age (WRA) and promotion of more hygienic deliveries (especially health facility deliveries) and clean cord care practices, MNT can be eliminated (defined as less than one case of neonatal tetanus per 1000 live births in every district).
WHO estimates that in 2013 (the latest year for which estimates are available), 49,000 newborns died from NT, a 94% reduction from the situation in the late 1980s. While progress continues to be made, by February 2015, there were still 24 countries that had not reached MNT elimination status. Activities to achieve the goal are on-going in these countries, with many likely to achieve MNT elimination in the near future.
Validation of MNT elimination is recommended once countries believe that they have achieved elimination. CDC assisted the Philippines Department of Health and partners, such as UNICEF and WHO, with this documentation process in a remote part of the Philippines, Mindoro Occidental Province. Dr. Minal Patel from the Global Immunization Division shared these photos from the project.