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India free of maternal, neonatal tetanus, says WHO

Aug 31, 2015

The UN health agency has congratulated India on the eradication of the killer disease.

New Delhi: The World Health Organisation (WHO) has congratulated India for the elimination of maternal and neonatal tetanus.

Validating this achievement, WHO added India to the list of countries that have successfully battled this killer disease. Maternal and neonatal tetanus has been reduced to less than one case per 1 000 live births in all 675 districts of the country.

The UN health agency has termed the success as a huge achievement for India, a country which until a few decades ago reported 150 000 to 200 000 neonatal tetanus cases per year.

WHO has stated that Maternal and neonatal tetanus elimination (MNTE) demonstrates India’s strong commitment and leadership that helped improve access to immunization, antenatal care services and skilled birth attendance in the most vulnerable populations.

The vulnerable populations include the poor, the remote and isolated communities where hygienic obstetric, postnatal practices and other health services were suboptimal or not accessible.

Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO- South-East Asia Region, said that the Indian government’s innovative approach of utilising elements of existing and new programmes helped in making MNTE a reality.

India’s re-energized national immunization programme and the special immunization weeks and the most recent ‘Mission Indradhanush’, helped ensure that children and pregnant women are provided with vaccines.

India’s National Rural Health Mission promoted institutional deliveries with a focus on the poor. The ‘Janani Suraksha Yojana’ encouraged women to give birth in a health facility.

Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Region, said that India’s MNTE success is also a huge tribute to the millions of health workers who often worked under challenging conditions, and undeniably the families and communities who recognized and accepted the benefits of these health services.

Dr Poonam added that unlike smallpox and polio, tetanus cannot be eradicated as tetanus spores remain stubbornly present in the environment worldwide. “As the risk of tetanus persists, we need to continue our efforts to ensure that MNTE is maintained - women and children are immunized and clean deliveries and proper cord care activities get a further boost,” she said.

With India’s achievement, almost the entire WHO South-East Asia Region, barring a few districts in Indonesia, has now eliminated maternal and neonatal tetanus.

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