The minister of health and sanitation, Mrs Abator Thomas, on Friday disclosed that neonatal tetanus which is a bacterium that can be easily contacted after child birth in an unclean delivery environment “is a silent killer.”
Briefing journalists at the ministry’s Youyi building conference room, the minister explained that tetanus was curable and “…can be prevented by vaccination.” She disclosed that, “each year about 180,000 newborn babies all over the world die of neonatal tetanus,” adding that “neonatal tetanus also takes the lives of about 30,000 mothers and it is also responsible for the death of at least one in every twenty mothers who die from delivery related causes.”
The minister pointed out that neonatal tetanus “is most common in rural areas where deliveries are conducted at home with inadequate sterile procedures…”
Speaking about its spread, the minister averred that, “it is spread when dirt enters wounds or cuts, or when women are assisted during delivery with contaminated instruments or during abortion”.
As for a newborn baby, she mentioned, that “ they [the babies] may be infected if the umbilical cords are cut-off with a dirty material or dressed with a dirty material.”
Mrs Thomas explained that there would be a National Maternal and Neonatal Tetanus Elimination Campaign.
The health minister disclosed that the first round of the campaign would commence on April 16th and end on the 25th while the second and third rounds would be on May and November respectively.
Mrs Thomas called on females within childbearing age to ensure that they take advantage of this free of cost opportunity by turning out in multitude to be vaccinated.
She appealed to mothers with tots, aged 6 to 59 months, to come along with their kids so that they would receive free vitamin A and deworming tablets for their child.
Highlighting the background of the programme, the UNICEF Officer-In-Charge, Adele Khudr disclosed that, “the objective of the integrated Child Survival Campaign is to provide a package of cost-effective interventions to improve child survival, growth and development with the sole aim of reducing Sierra Leone’s unenviable position as the country with the highest maternal, infant and child mortality rates.”
The campaign, she noted, “…will contribute to the realization of the right of every child to life, survival and development.”
She further disclosed that the Government of Sierra Leone and UNICEF’s country programme which has child survival as its main flagship had set 2008 to 2010 as it target.
“Having the highest infant mortality rate in the world is no longer acceptable in the 21st Century with the significant gains in science and technology that provide for cost effective interventions for easily preventable diseases,” Khudr said.
She assured the health ministry that, “the UN system will stand ready to support the government in its effort to meet its international obligations and to ensure that each child, whether boy or girl, and wherever they are living, have their right to life, survival and development.”