News Release

Indonesia Eliminates Maternal and Neonatal Tetanus

LDS Charities among partners working to eliminate the disease globally

In May, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that maternal and neonatal tetanus (MNT), the deadly disease for women and their children, has been eliminated in Indonesia.

Health experts say achieving the milestone was challenging because the country has a population of 220 million people and is spread over more than 17,000 islands where some 700 languages are spoken.

LDS Charities, the humanitarian arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is a partner in the global MNT Elimination Initiative, which is led by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and WHO and is supported by partners such as Kiwanis International. 

“We’re thrilled that LDS Charities has partnered with the U.S. Fund for UNICEF to champion the effort to eliminate MNT and that the entire LDS Church community is supporting critical efforts to parallel this achievement in other countries,” said Leslie Goldman, vice president, Global Cause Partnerships, U.S. Fund for UNICEF.

"This partnership between UNICEF and LDS Charities is one of our most emotionally satisfying projects," said Sharon Eubank, director of Humanitarian Services and LDS Charities of the Church. "Every member of the Church who ever donated a few dollars to the LDS Humanitarian Fund should feel a connection to this landmark achievement.

Eubank explained, "Tetanus in other times was called lock-jaw because it causes such violent convulsions. There is not much more horrifying than watching a newborn baby die a painful and completely preventable death from tetanus because the umbilical cord was cut with a rusty blade or the conditions were unsterile. Vaccinating the mother transmits the protection to the unborn baby, keeping them both safe. "

Learn more about the disease in this video from UNICEF USA.

Every year, nearly 50,000 babies are estimated to contract tetanus when they are born. Tetanus is caused when bacteria, found in soil everywhere, enters the bloodstream through open wounds. Anyone can contract tetanus at any age; however, in developing countries, women and their newborns are especially at risk during and after the birthing process. The disease kills between 70 to 100 percent of infected newborns within a few days following birth but can be prevented by immunizing women of childbearing age with a tetanus vaccine.

Efforts are also underway through the Eliminate Project, a global partnership between UNICEF and Kiwanis which is supported by LDS Charities, to raise the necessary resources to protect women and their babies in other developing countries from maternal and neonatal tetanus. Since 1999, UNICEF and its partners have helped immunize more than 130 million women against MNT in 53 countries and eliminate the disease in another 39.   

For the past two years, LDS Charities has provided $2 million in donations to help eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus. In 2015, $1 million donated by LDS Charities to the U.S. Fund for UNICEF was committed to protect Sudanese women and children from the deadly disease. In 2014, the Church’s $1 million donation was used in Chad to assist with vaccinations. 

UNICEF works in more than 190 countries and territories to put children first. UNICEF has helped save more children’s lives than any other humanitarian organization by providing health care and immunizations, clean water and sanitation, nutrition, education, emergency relief and more.

Read more on this significant milestone in Indonesia at unicefusa.org

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