17 year old Lilian lives with her husband close to her extended family in Pelewa Town, a rural Maasai community in Kajiado County, Kenya, and has a four year old son called Maren. Tragically her second child, a baby girl, died suddenly aged just three weeks old.
“The baby had stopped sucking breast milk and had a fever and was crying,” Lilian explains. “She had difficulty breathing and died.”
Lilian’s baby was born at home with the help of a traditional birth attendant and sadly Lilian had not been vaccinated during her pregnancy to protect her and her baby against maternal and newborn tetanus. Among the Maasai, 80 per cent of home deliveries are managed by traditional birth attendants but this poses a danger for women such as Lilian as tetanus is a disease that can be easily contracted when women give birth in unclean conditions. Delivering babies at home using unsafe and unhygienic birthing practices, such as cutting the umbilical cord with unsterile instruments or handling it with dirty hands or contaminated dressings leaves both mother and baby vulnerable to maternal and newborn tetanus.
Lilian now knows the importance of vaccines thanks to information from the Piliwa health facility near to her home. Wilfred Muema, the Nursing Officer in charge of the health facility, visited Lilian soon after the tragic death of her baby to explain the importance of being vaccinated against diseases such as maternal and newborn tetanus. The community also benefits from health education programmes supported by the Pampers Unicef 1 pack = 1 vaccine campaign where community health volunteers visit households to advise women, mothers and mothers-to-be of the importance of life-saving vaccines against fatal diseases.
Since 2006, the Pampers Unicef 1 pack = 1 vaccine campaign has helped fund vaccination programmes in countries such as Kenya helping to protect 100 million women and their babies from maternal and newborn tetanus and eliminating the disease in 16 countries. But despite the progress that has been made, more than 85 million women and their newborns around the world are still at risk from contracting the disease because they have not received the vaccines they need to keep themselves safe.