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Volume 454: debated on Monday 11 December 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps are being taken by his Department to tackle tetanus in developing countries. (105033)

Tetanus spores enter the body via deep wounds. In addition to wounds caused by accidents, mothers are susceptible to tetanus infection immediately following childbirth. Similarly, new born babies are at risk of tetanus infection where a non-sterile instrument is used to cut the umbilical cord (for example an un-trained traditional birth attendant using a piece of bamboo) and where traditional practices involve placing unclean ‘dressings’ over the exposed area (such as dried and powdered cow dung used to help dry the cord in parts of south Asia). Without urgent treatment tetanus is fatal, causing an estimated 200,000 newborn child deaths a year.

Tetanus is preventable through good hygiene and vaccination. DFID supports developing countries’ efforts to strengthen the health services through which immunisation is provided, as well as to improve hygienic practices by skilled birth attendants. In 2005-06 DFID provided £453.1 million as direct support to the health sector. DFID also provided£12.5 million core support to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and £19 million to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in 2005-06. Both WHO and UNICEF are key global actors in vaccine preventable diseases.

In addition, DFID supports the work of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) to introduce new vaccines (such as Hepatitis B and Haemophilius influenza) into country immunisation schedules. In some cases these new vaccines are administered in combination with diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus (DPT). In these cases, GAVI also supports tetanus immunisation. In some of the world's poorest countries GAVI provides support to improve the health systems which deliver immunisation and this support has recently been linked to improvements in the rates of DPT immunisation coverage in these countries. DFID has contributed over £43 million to GAVI since 2000.

The UK is also committed to developing innovative financing mechanisms such as the International Finance Facility for Immunisation (IFFm) which was launched in September 2005. So far this has raised US$ 1 billion which will be channelled through GAVI, allowing a major scaling-up of their immunisation work. The UK has committed a total of £1.38 billion for IFFm over the next 20 years.