Tetanus is no match for creative strategy

July 30, 2008

Vaccination drives can take a lot of work: running public service announcements, coordinating health workers, plannng events, etc. On top of these logitical challenges, organizers sometimes face unexpected hurdles like misconceptions about vaccines that stop people from getting lifesaving immunizations.

In Egypt where UNICEF was trying to protect mothers and babies from tetanus, many women had heard false rumors that the vaccines acted as contraceptives or caused sterilization. As a result, a lot of women refused to be immunized, putting themselves and their future children at risk. This presented a troubling situation for Egyptian health officials who were trying to curb the disease.

But UNICEF tackled the problem with a creative, grassroots approach. UNICEF and its partners trained 5,000 local Egyptian women to serve as community liaisons and educate their relatives and neighbors about the benefits of immunization.

egypt1.jpg
© UNICEF/HQ05-1568/Giacomo Pirozzi
UNICEF trains women in Egypt to combat two threats to survival"misinformation and superstition. Thanks to the innovative training program, Egypt is close to eliminating maternal and neonatal tetanus

Vaccination drives can take a lot of work: running public service announcements, coordinating health workers, planning events, etc. On top of these logistical challenges, organizers sometimes face unexpected hurdles like misconceptions about vaccines that stop people from getting lifesaving immunizations.

In Egypt, where UNICEF has been trying to protect mothers and babies from tetanus, many women had heard false rumors that the vaccines acted as contraceptives or caused sterilization. As a result, a lot of women refused to be immunized, putting themselves and their future children at risk. This presented a troubling situation for Egyptian health officials who were trying to curb the disease.

But UNICEF tackled the problem with a creative, grassroots approach. UNICEF and its partners trained 5,000 local Egyptian women to serve as community liaisons and educate their relatives and neighbors about the benefits of immunization.

egypt1.jpg
© UNICEF/HQ05-1568/Giacomo Pirozzi
UNICEF trains women in Egypt to combat two threats to survival"misinformation and superstition. Thanks to the innovative training program, Egypt is close to eliminating maternal and neonatal tetanus

In Egypt, Islamic cultural tradition prohibits men and outsiders from entering women's homes. But female community liaisons known as "Raydats" were welcomed when they visited women's doorsteps to encourage them to protect themselves against tetanus.

Thanks to the dedication of these female volunteers"and to UNICEF's ingenuity"infant tetanus cases in Egypt have fallen dramatically to less than one case per 1,000 births. The country expects to fully eliminate the deadly disease soon.

What other creative approaches do you think UNICEF can take to ensure women and children are immunized?