The Eliminate Project visits the Philippines
Lacey Stone traveled to the Philippines to witness the tremendous efforts that UNICEF is undertaking to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus (MNT) in the country of more than 7,000 islands. Through a partnership with Kiwanis International, UNICEF, along with government and health partners, is reaching the poorest, most neglected women in the Philippines with lifesaving health care.
The first ever World Immunization Week took place recently, April 21–28, with UNICEF offices around the world conducting immunization campaigns and raising awareness about the importance of vaccines to child survival. At the same time, I was returning to New York after spending more than a week in the Philippines. I had traveled there to witness the tremendous efforts that UNICEF is undertaking to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus (MNT) in the country of more than 7,000 islands. Kiwanis International, UNICEF, along with government and health partners, is reaching the poorest, most neglected women in the Philippines with lifesaving health care. I was able to see these immense efforts firsthand. Traveling to remote areas of the country, I spoke with women being immunized with the tetanus toxoid vaccine so that they, and their future babies, could be protected from the devastation of tetanus. The women we met had heard from relatives, learned from friends, and had even viewed billboards that addressed the importance of receiving the tetanus vaccine and performing safe birthing practices. We even spoke with one young pregnant mom who had decided that, despite giving birth to her first child in her home, she would be going to a local hospital for the birth of her second child, because she had learned about safe delivery practices. I was blown away by the extremely hospitable welcome that we were given by every UNICEF partner, woman and child that we met on the trip. It was incredible to speak with women being immunized in the rural health units and hospitals. We spoke to women who had been reached by door-to-door communication campaigns that advised them on the importance of immunization and safe birthing practices. Thanks to the information they received from local health workers—who sometimes risk their own lives traveling for hours over treacherous terrain to reach the hardest to reach households—these women were getting immunized and protecting themselves and their future babies. They told us, time and again, that they learned of the importance of the vaccine through the door to door campaigns conducted by the local health workers. I’ve reflected on my time spent in the Philippines with the Kiwanis International delegation and my UNICEF colleagues, and I still find myself completely amazed by the work that everyone is doing to ensure MNT is eliminated. As a U.S. Fund for UNICEF staff member, I speak with partners about the work UNICEF does in more than 150 countries around the world to save, protect and improve lives. I fully believe in UNICEF's mission. But, it was not until this trip that I realized how extremely complex, sometimes dangerous, and truly extraordinary UNICEF's work is. UNICEF, working with partners like Kiwanis International, ensures that every woman and child, no matter how seemingly inaccessible or distant, is reached.