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Door to door for mothers everywhere

Maricel Busalin, mother of an infant who died from tetanus infection, receives her third dose of the tetanus toxoid vaccination in the door-to-door campaign.

“She stopped feeding. Then my baby was turning blue,” recalls Maricel Busalin, now 28, the Iraga mother whose baby was the last known case of neonatal tetanus in Solana, Philippines.

Although Solana does not have the highest incidence of tetanus in the country, the 18 cases since 2000 are considered alarming.* Prior immunization coverage in Solana was uneven and left pockets of their population unprotected.

Maricel's baby girl was born suddenly one morning at home with a birthing attendant, called a hilot. The hilot used sterilized scissors to snip the umbilical cord but smeared coconut oil on the cut causing the infection to set in. In Solana, 90% of births are delivered at home. Maricel says everyone she knew relied on a hilot when it was time to give birth.

In addition to lack of immunization, maternal and neonatal tetanus results from the use of unclean instruments during a delivery or the practice of applying ash, garlic or even a wasps’ nest on a baby’s cut umbilical cord, a healing ritual often favored by the traditional birth attendants who assist women in home births.

“She was jerking. She was squeezing up, going stiff,” Maricel demonstrates. “As much as possible I wanted it to be me instead of my child suffering.” The mother of four had never been vaccinated against tetanus.


Thanks to support from Kiwanis International, the Philippines eliminated maternal and neonatal tetanus in 2017.

*as of February 2013

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