Virtually unknown in high income countries, tetanus is a disease related to poverty and inequity. Despite being entirely preventable, neonatal tetanus – a swift and painful killer – remains a burden in 25 countries where vaccination fails to reach all mothers-to-be, and where women deliver and care for their newborns in unhygienic conditions. Tetanus is called the “silent killer” as many newborns and mothers affected by the disease die at home, and neither the birth nor the death are reported.
Since 2006, P&G Pampers has contributed more than US$50 million for maternal and neonatal tetanus elimination programmes supported by UNICEF, and raised awareness about the disease through extensive and long-standing media campaigns. These funds have helped UNICEF and government partners to achieve the full elimination of maternal and neonatal tetanus in 14 countries, and to support elimination efforts in many others. More specifically, the donations have supported a range of immunization activities, including the procurement and delivery of vaccines, education and training for health workers and on-the-ground communication to encourage women to be vaccinated.
Poorer families bear the greatest burden of newborn deaths to tetanus – and an overwhelming majority of tetanus deaths occur in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Without high-quality medical care – absent in most places where women deliver at home and in unhygienic conditions – nearly all those newborns who contract tetanus die.
In 2000, the lives of an estimated 200,000 newborns were lost to tetanus annually. Today, thanks to immunization and improved medical care before, during and after birth, that number has been reduced to 58,000 each year. To eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus worldwide, over 100 million women need to be fully immunized against the disease between now and the end of 2015.
At an event tomorrow at UNICEF House in New York, co-hosted with our corporate partner P&G Pampers, we are taking the opportunity to reflect upon our collective efforts to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus and highlight the significant contribution that partners like P&G Pampers have made towards this effort.
The Pampers-UNICEF partnership has had a major, life-saving impact on the lives of women and their babies while substantially benefiting the business and the brand of P&G Pampers. For P&G Pampers, the partnership has provided one of the highest return on investments due to increased sales of products through cause-related marketing. It has enhanced brand credibility and media coverage for P&G Pampers and reinforced the brand’s equity.
For more than 60 years, UNICEF’s partnership with the private sector has helped to deliver results for the world’s most vulnerable children. Looking ahead, UNICEF’s partnerships with the private sector will be more important than ever in overcoming future challenges for children. Through a strategic and integrated approach to corporate engagement, UNICEF will continue to leverage the influence and impact of business to help reach every child, everywhere.
Our partnership with P&G Pampers is a perfect example of how important collaboration with the private sector is to delivering sustainable solutions to meet the challenges that are faced by children around the world. Through partnerships with the private sector we can advance the development agenda, and strengthen respect and support for the realization of children’s rights. Together we have the opportunity to create strategic and long term collaborations that will help ensure that no child is left behind.
Gérard Bocquenet is the Director of Private Fundraising and Partnerships at UNICEF.