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  • With help from Kiwanis and UNICEF, Chad eliminates MNT

    Today, mothers in Chad no longer fear losing newborns to tetanus. Thanks to the work of Kiwanis and UNICEF, Chad has become the 26th country to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus (MNT) since the start of The Eliminate Project!

    The World Health Organization (WHO) presented the official certificate to Chad’s minister of health in April in recognition of the country’s efforts. The elimination of MNT is the result of Chad’s improvements in recent years regarding routine immunization.   

    With the support of Kiwanis International, along with partners such as LDS Charities and BD, UNICEF has increased access to lifesaving immunizations for some of the world’s most vulnerable mothers and babies. Our partnership has enabled UNICEF to vaccinate millions of women of reproductive age against tetanus.

    “We’ve really made a huge impact,” said Stan Soderstrom, executive director of Kiwanis International. “When we started, I said that when we can get down to counting the number of nations on our fingers and thumbs, well, we’ll feel good about that. We’re getting close.”  

    MNT remains a threat in 13 countries: Afghanistan, Angola, the Central African Republic (CAR), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Guinea, Mali, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan and Yemen.

    Most mothers and newborns dying of tetanus live in areas where women are poor, have little access to health care and have little information about safe delivery practices. There were other obstacles to overcome in Chad. The African nation has a large displaced population due to conflict prompted by Boko Haram. Many children have been separated from their families, subjected to exploitation, abuse and recruitment by armed groups. Despite this, the country has been able to achieve this milestone.

    Once MNT is contracted, the fatality rate can be as high as 100 percent without hospital care. In fact, MNT causes mothers and infants to die in excruciating pain within days of delivery.

    Once this infectious disease is contracted, the fatality rate can be as high as 100 percent without hospital care. In fact, MNT causes mothers and infants to die in excruciating pain within days of delivery.

    However, the disease is surprisingly easy to prevent through immunization and hygienic birth practices. In fact, a series of three shots provides lifetime immunity to a woman and all her future children.

    WHO estimates that in 2017, the latest year for which estimates are available, 30,848 newborns died from neonatal tetanus, a 47% drop since Kiwanis partnered with UNICEF in 2011. In 2010, 58,000 babies were estimated to die from tetanus every year.

    The money Kiwanis is raising through The Eliminate Project funds vaccinations, as well as transportation, volunteer training, monitoring and supervision. Raised funds also pay health care workers and skilled birthing attendants — so that mothers give birth in clean, safe environments.   

    Kiwanis International is committed to meeting the health and vaccination needs of mothers and children around the world so that no child dies a needless, preventable death.  

    The need to fulfill pledges is as urgent as ever. Make a gift today! Go to to donate.

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  • New report celebrates wins against MNT

    The number of babies dying from tetanus each year has been almost cut in half since the start of The Eliminate Project, a new report shows.  

    A group of scientists, statisticians and experts recently analyzed various data, which together showed an estimated 30,848 babies died of tetanus in 2017, the most recent year for which records were available. That’s a 47% drop since Kiwanis partnered with UNICEF in 2011 on The Eliminate Project. In 2010, 58,000 babies were estimated to die from tetanus every year.  

    The report also showed that the number of newborns dying each day from tetanus decreased to 85 in 2017 from 160 in 2011.  

    © UNICEF_UN0294769_Frank Dejongh

    “I get emotional over it,” Kiwanis International Executive Director Stan Soderstrom said of the decrease in deaths. “When you’ve been in the field, you’ve seen it. You’ve experienced it. I’ve not been in a clinic where there was a dying child, luckily, but we’ve had members who have. They have seen the infant who is dying of tetanus.”  

    Ann Updegraff Spleth, chief operating officer of the Kiwanis Children’s Fund, said that while Kiwanis celebrates the remarkable success of The Eliminate Project, “85 babies dying a day is still too many. Kiwanians never quit, so let’s keep it up until the number of babies dying each day is zero.” 

    Updegraff Spleth added that stretch gifts and fulfilled pledges are as urgent as ever. “Immunizations cannot be purchased with pledges,” she said. 

    One of the challenges of eliminating maternal and neonatal tetanus has been the lack of data. In fact, most newborn deaths from tetanus go unreported because the births themselves are not reported. 

    The new statistics were provided to UNICEF by the Maternal and Child Epidemiology Estimation (MCEE) project, which is led by the World Health Organization in partnership with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and other academic institutions. The statistics are more precise than what had previously been reported because of improvements in disease-monitoring and surveillance — an outgrowth of The Eliminate Project.  

    Soderstrom recalled a trip to Madagascar with other Kiwanians in November 2013. They met mothers who had previously lost babies to tetanus, but later received the vaccinations and then had healthy babies.  

    “They had their certificates of immunization and a couple of mothers were holding them up to show them to us,” he said. “Other mothers came over to see what was going on. Suddenly all the other mothers disappeared because they had run back to their houses to get theirs.” 

    Before being immunized, these women lived in fear of their newborns dying from the excruciating but preventable disease. Newborns who contract tetanus suffer repeated and painful convulsions and extreme sensitivity to light and touch. Without hospitalization, there is little hope of survival.  

    How far we’ve come 

    In 1989, UNICEF and the WHO identified neonatal tetanus as a silent killer worldwide. 

    By 2000, newborns in 59 countries — in addition to some of their mothers — were still dying of tetanus. During the next decade, UNICEF and its partners eliminated the disease in 20 countries. After Kiwanis joined the fight in 2011, 20 countries were declared to have eliminated MNT in half the time it had previously taken. 

    Today, MNT remains a threat in 14 countries — nations where women are poor, have little access to health care or may be in danger from wars or internal conflict. The good news is that immunization plans are being implemented in most of these countries, and at least one is close to MNT elimination. 

    But this life-changing work cannot continue without money. The funds Kiwanis is raising through The Eliminate Project pay for the vaccinations but also for transportation, volunteer training, monitoring and supervision. Those funds also pay health care workers and skilled birthing attendants — so that mothers give birth in clean, safe environments.  

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  • Celebrating partial validations

    Since the start of The Eliminate Project in 2010, 25 countries have been validated for eliminating maternal and neonatal tetanus. Validation means that in every district of that country there is fewer than one case of neonatal tetanus out of 1,000 live births. The final step in a country’s journey toward that happy moment is the validation survey. 

    In some cases, however, it’s more effective for regions of a country to be validated one by one. Each of these is called a “partial validation.”  

    And each one is worth celebrating. 

    For example, Nigeria’s South East Zone and Pakistan’s Punjab Province are each MNT-free — and each of those partial validations were major landmarks because those areas consist of 12 percent and 23 percent of their nations’ populations respectively.  

    Our most recent cause for celebration came with the elimination of MNT in the southern part of Mali, where approximately 90 percent of that nation’s population resides.  

    These partial validations signify progress, but they also help build momentum. Pakistan’s Sindh province recently passed a pre-validation survey — the step before undergoing a validation survey — and Nigeria’s South West Zone has scheduled a validation survey for this spring. Both countries also held workshops recently to finalize plans for the remaining regions. 

    Thanks to the work of so many people, countless women and babies are no longer at risk of this deadly disease. In addition, sustainable health systems are being strengthened.  

    In other words, every partial validation is worth a full celebration.

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  • Keeping up the fight against MNT

    As our new year continues, so does our fight against maternal and neonatal tetanus. If adequate funding is available in 2019, we anticipate seeing the following countries complete immunization activities and prepare for pre-validation and validation surveys (the final steps to becoming MNT-free): 

    • Chad, a landlocked African nation of 14.5 million people, is one of the poorest in the world. Their validation survey is scheduled for January and February 2019.
    • Democratic Republic of the Congo is largely afflicted by armed conflict, and many of its children face a lack of basic health, nutrition and educational services. Their validation survey is scheduled for July 2019, along with a review of insecure areas.
    • Mali is beset with violence and much of its population is displaced. Southern Mali (home to 90 percent of the country’s population) completed a validation survey in November and is awaiting notification of the results from the World Health Organization. In early 2019, the nation will review its northern districts.
    • Guinea’s progress against MNT was disrupted by the Ebola outbreak in 2015, but it will complete immunizations in the second quarter of 2019, followed by a pre-validation survey later this year.
    • Sudan’s population, especially its children, bear the brunt of many crises, including war, disease, malnutrition and poverty. The last round of immunizations against tetanus is scheduled for 33 districts this spring.

    In 2018, nine African nations held a workshop to finalize action plans for MNT elimination. This year, we’re looking forward to a similar consultation in the Middle East and North Africa region.

    The Eliminate Project continues to be a key factor in protecting mothers and their babies around the world. Help us finish the fight. Donate or fulfill your pledge today.

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  • Our 2018 highlights

    2018 was an important year in the fight against maternal and neonatal tetanus. Kiwanians worked hard to fulfill their pledges and are protecting more mothers and babies from this tragic disease. Here are some of this year’s highlights:

    Kenya eliminates MNT

    Mothers in Kenya no longer fear their babies dying of tetanus. In July, Kenya officially became the 25th country to eliminate MNT since Kiwanis International partnered with UNICEF USA in 2010. There are 14 countries where babies still face the threat of this painful and deadly — yet preventable — disease.

    Hear Rose Nijraini, UNICEF community health specialist in Kenya, describe the value of Kiwanis’ work against MNT in this video.

    Successful MNT Challenge

    During the 103rd Kiwanis International Convention, Kiwanis members from around the world came together to support The Eliminate Project. Generous donors put forth US$100,000 to challenge Kiwanians to raise another $100,000 during convention. And they did! Inspired by the response, the initial donors pledged another $100,000 — and Kiwanians came through again.

    Altogether, the MNT Challenge raised $502,282.72 to save and protect mothers and babies worldwide.

    Working hard in Africa

    This fall, the World Health Organization’s Africa Region held a workshop in Nairobi, Kenya, to accelerate efforts to achieve MNT elimination and sustain its progress in the 10 African nations that haven’t reached elimination. As a result, each country’s team reviewed its risk status and drafted action plans.

    Germany fulfills its pledge

    Germany submitted its final payment toward its US$843,085 pledge in October, becoming the second district to reach this milestone.

    Like clubs in many other districts, German clubs held fundraisers to support The Eliminate Project — and often split the proceeds with local projects. One uniquely German fundraiser encouraged members to forgo Wiener Schnitzel and donate that money to The Eliminate Project!

    Dr. Julio Srulijes, Kiwanis Children’s Fund ambassador and district chair, also said having the right volunteers in place was extremely helpful.

    “Europe is leading the way in pledge completion,” said Ann Updegraff Spleth, chief operating officer of the Kiwanis Children’s Fund. “The vulnerable mothers and babies of the world are being saved and protected by their dedication and devotion to the elimination of this scandal of a disease, which steals our children, breaks our hearts and is totally preventable.”

    Read full story here.

    MNT experts and partners meet

    In November, Kiwanis leaders traveled to New York City to join leaders from other international organizations for a discussion of the fight against maternal and neonatal tetanus. The meeting began with technical experts reviewing progress, future steps and challenges with members of the Global MNT Elimination Initiative — which includes UNICEF, the World Health Organization, United Nations Population Fund, and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    The next day, Kiwanis International and the Kiwanis Children’s Fund joined the discussion. In fact, several organizations working to eliminate MNT participated—including LDS Charities, the Nigerian and Cameron ministries of health, and BD Medical, the vaccine’s manufacturer.

    Still at risk

    Since 2010, when The Eliminate Project began, the worldwide Kiwanis family has helped eliminate MNT in 25 countries. But the threat remains for mothers and babies in 14 nations:

    Africa (10): Angola, Central African Republic, Chad*, Democratic Republic of the Congo*, Guinea, Mali, Nigeria**, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan
    Middle East (3): Afghanistan, Pakistan**, Yemen
    Asian Pacific (1): Papua New Guinea
    *Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo will conduct validation surveys in 2019.

    **South East Zone of Nigeria and the Punjab Province in Pakistan have been validated for MNTE.

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  • Germany fulfills its pledge to The Eliminate Project!

    Congratulations, Germany!  The district has fulfilled its pledge to The Eliminate Project, becoming the second district to reach this milestone.

    Germany submitted its final payment toward its US$843,085 pledge in October.

    How did the district do it? Dr. Julio Srulijes, Kiwanis Children’s Fund ambassador and district chair, said the key was having the right volunteers in place. He credited The Eliminate Project advocate Stefan Uhrig for inspiring the district and laying the groundwork.

    "Being part of this great campaign on such a level was a great honor for me," Uhrig said. "I am so grateful to my predecessors and all German Kiwanis who participated in The Eliminate Project, especially the many legacy clubs!"

    Like many districts, Germany’s clubs held fundraisers to support The Eliminate Project — and often split the proceeds with local projects. One uniquely German fundraiser encouraged members to forgo wiener schnitzel and instead donate that money to The Eliminate Project! Srulijes also said regional and district meetings were held for club and divisional leaders to emphasize the importance of completing the district’s pledge.

    The district also stayed focused on its pledge by sharing news and fundraising ideas through monthly emails to all members, the district magazine, Facebook and other digital media.

    Because of contributions from Kiwanians like those in Germany, mothers in more countries no longer fear losing a child to neonatal tetanus. Other countries are close to eliminating MNT. For them, the fight is more urgent than ever.

    “Congratulations and thank you to the Kiwanians of the Germany District for completing their generous pledge to The Eliminate Project. Europe is leading the way in pledge completion!” said Ann Updegraff Spleth, chief operating officer of the Kiwanis Children’s Fund. “The vulnerable mothers and babies of the world are being saved and protected by your dedication and devotion to the elimination of this scandal of a disease, which steals our children, breaks our hearts and is totally preventable.”

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  • The Eliminate Project: A Kiwanis-family effort

    Every fall, Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF reminds us that The Eliminate Project is a family effort. Since day one, members of Kiwanis Service Leadership Programs— who range in age from K-Kids to adults with disabilities in Aktion Club — have supported The Eliminate Project. 

    In fact, SLP clubs and members have raised US$6,607,718.74 in paid donations by hosting creative fundraisers, participating in Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF and educating communities about maternal and neonatal tetanus. In the 2017-18 Kiwanis year alone, Kiwanis family members of all ages and abilities helped raise $377,452 through Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF.

    Key Club International has been a particularly strong part of the program. From 2012 to 2015, Key Club clubs and members raised US$2,823,665.16 through Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF and other fundraisers. Then these high school members of the Kiwanis family stepped up again in 2015 — with a US$3 million pledge. Altogether, Key Club has raised $5,279,983.12 in paid donations to date.

    SLP members have made an incredible impact in our efforts to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus, helping save and protect lives around the world.

    *All numbers as of September 30, 2018.

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  • Kenya eliminates maternal and neonatal tetanus

    DSC_0452Mothers in Kenya will no longer fear their babies dying of maternal and neonatal tetanus. Kenya is to become the 25th country to eliminate MNT since Kiwanis International partnered with UNICEF USA in 2010 to fight the deadly disease. 

    Soon, the country will receive a certificate from the World Health Organization stating it is free of MNT. That means there are only 14 countries where babies still face the threat of dying from this painful and often fatal disease. 

    In 2014, Kiwanis International and UNICEF USA sent a delegation to Kenya to witness UNICEF’s immunization efforts. During the visit, they visited with women who were waiting to be vaccinated and toured a sub-country hospital where they learned about the educational work being done. 

    But a baby still dies of MNT every 15 minutes, and mothers in the remaining 14 countries are waiting for help. Please fulfill your pledge to protect and save even more babies.  

    Read more from UNICEF USA about the challenges Kenya overcame to meet this major public health milestone. Also, hear a special message from the UNICEF Kenya office to Kiwanis International. 

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  • Why these donors want you to take on the MNT Challenge


    Kiwanians accepted the challenge! More than US$170,000 was donated during the 103rd Kiwanis Convention to fight maternal and neonatal tetanus, far surpassing the goal of raising US$100,000 for the MNT Challenge.   

    And there is more great news: We have unlocked an additional US$100,000 from our group of generous donors. 

    We'll keep raising money for the MNT Challenge until we reach US$200,000. That means US$400,000 will go toward saving and protecting the lives thousands of babies who might otherwise perish from maternal and neonatal tetanus.
    Are you ready to accept their challenge? Go to to give online or text MNTChallenge to 50155 to give by phone.


    They are committed philanthropists and dedicated volunteers. But what unites them even more is their desire to see their good works go further.

    This charitable group of donors is putting forth US$100,000 to challenge Kiwanis members to raise an additional US$100,000 during the Kiwanis International convention in Las Vegas. That means the money donated will have double the impact on saving and protecting lives from maternal and neonatal tetanus.

    Most of the donors have a long history of giving to The Eliminate Project. But UNICEF USA supporters Mark and Ana Maria Gordon recently learned about the work Kiwanis is doing with UNICEF to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus.

    Gordon's photoThe Gordons are well-known for dedicating their time and resources to improving the quality of children's lives. Along with the NBA, the United Nations and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Gordons are founding partners of Nothing But Nets, which promotes the purchase and distribution of malaria-preventing bed nets in Africa and Southeast Asia.

    And for more than 15 years, they developed and funded SHAPE, a program that introduces high school students to philanthropy, career development and civic engagement and leadership opportunities.

    After supporting UNICEF USA for several years, the Gordons told the organization they wanted to partner with people who are serious and passionate about saving children's lives.

    "Without hesitation, they said, 'You have to learn more about our incredible, special and passionate friends at Kiwanis,'" Mark Gordon recounted.

    The Gordons said they were so moved by Kiwanis' leadership that they asked to channel their financial support alongside Kiwanis in the hopes this will be the best year ever for raising money to eliminate MNT.


    05_28_2015_8881For Jimmy McCorlew, The Eliminate Project has already had a profound effect.

    As a past governor of the Georgia District, McCorlew traveled with five fellow Kiwanians to Namibia. Because MNT had already been eliminated in Namibia, he witnessed the work UNICEF is doing on sustainability and education.

    "I believe every mother should have whatever means available to give birth to a healthy baby,” he said. “And every baby should have the opportunity to become a healthy child."

    He is encouraging Kiwanis members to give during the convention so even more lives can be saved and protected.

    "We all have had achievements we are proud of,” said McCorlew, a member of the Kiwanis Club of Columbus, Georgia. “Since my involvement in our Eliminate Project, it has become the greatest achievement in my life,"


    Jan and Robert Maxwell, Topeka, KansasWhen asked why he and his wife, Jan, give to The Eliminate Project, Robert Maxwell responded, "Why wouldn't you give to it? Where else can your dollars impact thousands of people's lives? Why wouldn't you want to do that!"

    Robert said he and Jan, who is Kansas District governor, are impressed by the sustainability and education work UNICEF is doing in the field. It's not just about this year or this generation, Maxwell said, but making sure future generations don't have to live in fear of babies dying of tetanus.

    Several other Kiwanis members are playing a key role in the challenge. John T. Tyner II, James and Zelma Paschal and a couple who wish to remain anonymous are longtime supporters and champions of The Eliminate Project. They too hope to see their impact amplified during convention.

    Are you ready to accept their challenge? Go to to give online or text MNTChallenge to 50155 to give by phone.


    Facts about the MNT Challenge

    1. Funds contributed to The Eliminate Project Challenge may not be used toward an existing individual (personal) pledge, but funds may be used toward an existing club or district pledge.
    2. All funds will be credited to the donor’s respective district.
    3. The Kiwanis Children’s Fund will accept individual and club pledges as well as cash gifts (credit card or check) toward The Eliminate Project Challenge.
    4. The benefit of the challenge is that a donor’s gift will double the number of lives saved or protected.There is no “discount” on recognition items.Donors may request recognition according to the level in which they contribute.(i.e. Zellers will be awarded, when requested, for gifts of US$1,250 not US$625.)

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  • New Eliminate Project resource for clubs that have fulfilled pledge

    When your club fulfills its pledge to The Eliminate Project, the Kiwanis Children's Fund can help promote your accomplishment to your community. The communications team has written a news release that your club can customize after it has successfully completed its pledge. 

    The news release explains what maternal and neonatal tetanus is, why Kiwanis is committed to fighting it and how your club was involved in the project. You can personalize it to describe how your club raised money, as well as showcase ways your club supports children in your community.  

    Please email after you have sent your clubs final gift payment. You will then receive a copy of the news release. 

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