Kiwanis-UNICEF partnership saving lives around the world – Washington Times

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – One dollar and 80 cents. Pocket change, right? Enough to buy a cup of coffee, maybe a newspaper.

But $1.80 can be the difference between life and death in some parts of the world.

For $1.80, a woman and her future children can be protected from the scourge of tetanus, a deadly disease that most countries eradicated decades ago.

In developing nations like Haiti, Ethiopia, Afghanistan and Kenya, the battle is not over.

Kris Bowers, Kiwanis Club district governor for Indiana, joined the fight five years ago, along with 600,000 Kiwanians around the world. That’s when Kiwanis International partnered with UNICEF on The Eliminate Project, an initiative to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus, which kills nearly 50,000 babies and women every year.

Bowers has been involved with Kiwanis for 26 years but just assumed the yearlong leadership position for the Indiana district. The former executive pastor of Northeast Community Church and her husband, Brian, have boosted their personal financial support for The Eliminate Project from $30,000 to $50,000. That’s how important they think it is.

“An infant infected with tetanus usually dies within seven days,” Bowers said. “And it’s very painful. They suffer horrible seizures; it actually breaks their bones.”

Extreme sensitivity to light and touch means mothers can only watch as their child dies. Holding the baby will only increase the pain, she said.

Since Kiwanis and UNICEF partnered on The Eliminate Project, 17 countries have eliminated maternal and neonatal tetanus. Currently, 21 countries remain at risk. An ambitious fundraising goal of $110 million is within sight; about $102 million has been raised or pledged at this point. In all, the lives of more than 50 million mothers and their future babies will be saved as a result.

Bowers recently returned from Namibia in southwest Africa, where she saw firsthand the results of the Kiwanis/UNICEF partnership. The country has been certified as MNT-free by the World Health Organization.

On her visit there, she saw hundreds of mothers and children lined up in the hot sun, waiting to get their shots. It’s an image that has stuck with her.

“I see what an investment in these children does. When kids are healthy and can get an education and a job, it completely turns around a community. The government in Namibia has done a great job of educating citizens about the importance of this, so these moms walk for miles to wait in long lines to get their child immunized.”

Much of the credit for that, Bowers said, goes to UNICEF, which has worked closely with government councils in villages throughout that country and others to communicate the risks of disease and the benefits of immunizations and better health practices.

If you want to help in the fight against maternal and neonatal tetanus, visit www.kiwanis.org and click on Eliminate. Bowers also invites people to get involved with their local Kiwanis Club. There are 187 clubs in Indiana alone, and while they join others around the world in supporting The Eliminate Project, they also help people in their own backyards.

“There are a lot of needs locally and a lot of needs globally. We really do both,” she said. “A Kiwanis Club is organized initially to serve right where they are. They form partnerships with schools and other organizations in the community to serve children right there, right outside their door.”

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