LAHORE - Health authorities have claimed achieving the target of maternal and neonatal tetanus elimination from the province.

World Health Organisation (WHO), Global Alliance for Vaccination and Immunisation (GAVI) and United Nations Children's Emergency Fund (Unicef) teams will arrive in the first week of April to verify the claim of MNT elimination, sources told The Nation.

International health institutions will visit houses in different areas, check surveillance registers and carryout independent survey to check that whether the provincial government has achieved the global target of MNT elimination by 2015.

WHO will issue MNT elimination certificate to the provincial government after completing the verification process.

As per the officials at Directorate General Health Services, the department had written a letter to WHO in the end of last year, seeking MNT elimination certificate.

“The Punjab has fulfilled the global obligation of MNT elimination by 2015. Global health institutions are arriving to verify the ground realties. Hopefully, MNT elimination certificate will be issued soon”, said an official at Directorate General Health Services.

MNT is among the most common lethal consequences of unclean deliveries and umbilical cord care practices. When tetanus develops, mortality rates are extremely high, especially in case of unavailability of appropriate medical care.

MNT can be prevented by hygienic delivery and cord care practices and/ immunizing mothers with tetanus vaccine during pregnancy.

The MNT Elimination Initiative aims to reduce MNT cases to such low levels that the disease is no longer a major public health problem. Unlike polio and smallpox, tetanus cannot be eradicated as spores are present in the environment worldwide. But through immunization of pregnant women and promotion of more hygienic deliveries and cord care practices, MNT can be eliminated i.e less than one case of neonatal tetanus per 1000 live births in every district.

In 1988, WHO estimated that 787,000 newborns died of neonatal tetanus (NT). In late 1980s, the estimated annual global mortality rate was approximately 6.7 NT deaths per 1000 live births - clearly a substantial public health problem

In 1989, the 42nd World Health Assembly called for elimination of neonatal tetanus by 1995

The following year, the 1990 World Summit for Children listed neonatal tetanus elimination as one of its goals, and the goal was again endorsed by the 44th World Health Assembly in 1991. Due to slow implementation of the strategies, the target date for was postponed to 2000.

In 1999, when progress towards the attainment of the global elimination goal was reviewed by Unicef, WHO and UNFPA, the Initiative was re-constituted and elimination of maternal tetanus was added to the goal with a 2005 target date, which was later shifted to 2015.

The WHO estimates that in 2013, 49,000 newborns died from NT, a 94 per cent reduction from the situation in the late 1980s.