Ernestine Rasoarinalala, 35, is four months pregnant and has two children, Jessy, 10, and Sarobidy, 8, in Soamonina village, Madagascar
Ernestine has lived in the rural village of Soamonina, situated in the highlands of central Madagascar, around 10km from the nearest health centre, for 11 years. Despite being four months pregnant, Ernestine works on the hills as a farmer with her husband to support themselves and their soon-to-be three children. Her two boys Jessy, 10, and Sarobidy, 8, help them grow and sell fruit and vegetables at local markets. The family live in a community of 1750 inhabitants and have minimal access to health services.
Health programmes including vaccination campaigns against Maternal and Newborn Tetanus, supported by the Pampers and UNICEF “1 pack + 1 vaccine” campaign, give mothers such as Ernestine the chance to keep themselves and their unborn children healthy and protected against diseases, despite the challenges they face from living in such a rural area.
Ernestine found out about the importance of vaccines from the community health worker in her village. The community health workers play an integral role in saving the lives of women and children by running vaccination campaign awareness programmes and walking door-to-door to advise and remind women that they must be vaccinated to protect themselves and their unborn babies from diseases such as Maternal and Newborn Tetanus.
Ernestine’s second child, Sarobidy was born at home as by the time she went into labour the distance to the nearest health centre was too far to walk. A traditional birthing attendant was present at the birth and delivered the baby. This often poses a danger for women such as Ernestine, as Tetanus is a disease that lives in soil and therefore can be easily contracted when women give birth and the traditional birthing attendant cuts the umbilical cord, making it even more vital that pregnant women complete the full course of vaccines against Maternal and Newborn Tetanus. Sadly, Ernestine saw first-hand the dangers of not keeping up-to-date with vaccination when a friend’s child fell ill.
The Pampers and UNICEF “1 pack + 1 vaccine” campaign has funded vaccination programmes in Madagascar helping to eliminate the disease across the country. Despite helping to eliminate Maternal and Newborn Tetanus in a total of 15 countries, including Madagascar, there are still an estimated 100 million women and their newborns in 24 countries who are still at risk from the fatal disease.
Written by Georgina Thompson, UNICEF