Cayce Pack is an intern in the NGO department of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF.
This week, from the capital of Kigali to the countryside, nearly 4.1 million children in Rwanda will receive a kick start to their chances for a healthy childhood with the help of UNICEF.
Mothers and kids alike will benefit from lifesaving interventions and loads of preventative care as the country celebrates its Mother and Child Health Week. Shots, scores of vitamins, and schooling in proper healthcare will reach all over this central African nation. Yet one particular aspect of the campaign stands out to me: the vaccination of over 300,000 women against maternal-neonatal tetanus (MNT).
|© UNICEF/NYHQ2010-0144/Shehzad Noorani|
|A woman grimaces while being vaccinated by a health worker.|
Before I started interning at the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, I only thought of tetanus when I saw a copy of my own shot records or signed a medical release form. My knowledge of maternal-neonatal tetanus was even more limited. But in the three months I have spent here, I see tetanus with entirely new eyes. When I look at that word, I look at women and children who die needlessly each year from a fatal, yet preventable, disease.
However, I have also come to see hope, which is a feeling I never thought I would equate to a disease that I once assumed only occurred if you stepped on a rusty nail. As I have witnessed through our proposal submission to Kiwanis International’s Worldwide Service Project and our constant support of UNICEF’s campaigns, we have the opportunity to virtually eliminate maternal-neonatal Tetanus in the 42 countries it affects most.
MNT, which most often comes from unsanitary birthing conditions, claims the life of one infant every four minutes around the world. Yet through simple immunization campaigns like that in Rwanda this week, MNT can be virtually stopped. The magnitude of what Rwanda will accomplish in one week speaks volumes of what UNICEF can achieve in coming months. As we gain momentum to continue this work around the world, I am “seeing” the reality of tetanus being rid from the globe.