The Eliminate Project, a collaboration between Kiwanis International and UNICEF to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus, was introduced to members of Anniston, Oxford and Jacksonville Kiwanis clubs at a recent Anniston meeting. Mel Malkove, president of the Anniston club, called the project “a brand new initiative of international proportions.”
According to David Beasley, the Eliminate Project coordinator for Alabama, if a mother is not immunized against tetanus, her child risks contracting MNT at birth and will die within 10 to 14 days.
“They suffer from convulsions so severe their muscles tear, their bones break before finally respiratory failure sets in and the child dies,” Beasley said. “It’s an excruciating death.”
Because convulsions can be set off by bright light, noise or even wind blowing against their skin, Beasley explained that infected infants are isolated in a dark room with their eyes covered and ears plugged. Parents are not able to hold or touch them.
“When your child’s sick you want to comfort them as best you can,” he said. “These babies can’t have that. They’re on their own for two weeks and then they die.”
According to Beasley, MNT still plagues 38 countries, killing one baby every nine minutes. The cost to immunize one mother is $1.80.
“This is preventable,” he told his audience. “We’ve got the technology, we’ve got the know-how. We just have to raise the funds.”
Kiwanis International has pledged to raise a total of $110 million by 2015, the estimated amount that’s needed to globally eliminate MNT. Beasley said Alabama Kiwanis clubs were responsible for raising just over $2 million, about $750 per member, enough to save 1,129,408 lives.
One Anniston club member approached Beasley after the meeting and pledged $1,250.
Kiwanis International and UNICEF previously teamed up for a decade- long initiative to eliminate iodine deficiency — with great success, according to Malkove.
“We are not a social club,” he explained. “We are a service club.”