Tribune News Service
New Delhi, July 14
The World Health Organisation (WHO) today officially certified India as free of maternal and neonatal tetanus (MNT) and Yaws, marking a milestone in the country’s public health movement.
Receiving the citation, Health Minister JP Nadda called the occasion a “proud” moment and promised enhanced surveillance to eliminate major infections to prevent child mortality.
Until 1989, 2 lakh neonatal (in the first 28 days of birth) deaths annually were attributable to MNT. The elimination is defined as less than one case in 1,000 live births in every district of the country and reflects improved institutional deliveries (now 75 per cent for India) and clean umbilical cord practices. MNT occurs in newborns through infection of the unhealed umbilical stump when it is cut with a non-sterile instrument. Maternal tetanus is considered eliminated once neonatal tetanus elimination has been achieved.
MNT elimination is critical considering India accounts for 22 per cent of 6.3 million annual under-five deaths globally and 16 per cent of the 2.89 lakh maternal deaths globally. Over half (52 per cent) of under-five deaths at home happen at the neonatal stage which is why the MNT elimination is significant. In the past, cow dung was applied to cords causing tetanus infections in newborns.
The elimination of Yaws is also important with India being certified as the first Yaws-free nation among the ones than continue to report the bacterial infection of the skin.
MNT validation was started by the WHO in 1989 but India’s first MNT-free state was Andhra in 2003. By April 17, 2015, all states were declared MNT-free, ahead of WHO’s global MNT-free target deadline of December 2015.
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