Fighting Disease: Bangladesh
Reducing Maternal and Neonatal Tetanus
Until 1992, The Carter Center and the Task Force for Child Survival and Development worked together to reduce the incidence of neonatal tetanus, or lockjaw, in Pakistan and Bangladesh. The disease, contracted during birthing procedures, is caused by a toxin called Clostridium tetani and is a primary cause of infant death during the first seven days of life in those countries. About 1 percent of rural babies die from the disease, with symptoms including muscle spasms, clenched fists, and rigidity.
Mothers and mothers-to-be usually entrust their care and child delivery to traditional birth attendants, or midwives, who rarely advise their clients to be vaccinated against tetanus. The Carter Center (whose Health Programs were formerly known as Global 2000), in collaboration with government and local health professionals, studied midwives' beliefs and practices to better educate mothers about the need for immunization. Studies also evaluated unsterile birthing techniques that might affect the risks of neonatal tetanus, such as unclean surgical instruments or the failure of midwives to wash their hands before performing a delivery.
Global 2000 helped improve collaboration among midwives and local Ministry of Health child survival staff to avoid or eliminate unsafe birthing and neonatal care practices, to establish antiseptic delivery methods, and to refer pregnant women and mothers with past histories of neonatal tetanus for immunizations.