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DEVELOPMENT REPORT – August 12, 2002: Campaign Against Tetanus - 2002-08-09

This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

The United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, has launched a new program to protect thousands of women and their babies against tetanus. Organisms that enter the body through a cut or wound cause the disease. It can lead to serious muscle problems. Tetanus can also cause difficulty opening the mouth or swallowing. Doctors call this condition lockjaw.

The UNICEF campaign will target women in poor communities in Africa that are difficult to reach. Recently, health workers gave injections of vaccine medicine to more than one-hundred-thousand women in two areas of Mali. The vaccine will protect the women and their newly born children from tetanus. Women at risk must receive at least three injections of the vaccine over a one-year period to be fully protected.

Health workers use a special device called a UniJect to give the vaccination. This device includes a needle and the amount of medicine needed for one patient. UNICEF says that people with little or no medical training can successfully use the Uniject device. For example, teachers and community workers can be trained in areas where there are no health centers. UNICEF says more people can by vaccinated in a short time by using temporary health workers instead of medical experts.

Marc Vergara is a spokesperson for UNICEF. He says the Uniject device has been in use for about twelve years. The tetanus vaccination has been used for about seventy years. And international campaigns to protect people against disease have been carried out for many years. Mister Vergara says this is the first time all three have been combined.

Mister Vergara says the UNICEF campaign will extend to other parts of Mali later this year. If it succeeds, UNICEF and other aid organizations will plan similar campaigns in other countries. They include Ghana, Somalia, Sudan, and Uganda.

UNICEF reports that tetanus killed two-hundred-thousand newly born babies and thirty-thousand women in fifty-seven developing countries last year. Ninety percent of all tetanus cases are in twenty-seven countries in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. As many as seventy percent of all babies who develop the disease die in their first months of life.

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss.