Neonatal death and tetanus (Ecuador)

Neonatal death and tetanus (Ecuador)
2016. Wamajkara, utensil made of bamboo, for cutting the umbilical cord, Napo (Ecuador)  © AEEH

Neonatal death and tetanus (Ecuador)

Tetanus in mothers-infants was an important cause of death linked to a lack of hygiene, often due to the use of unsterilised instruments for cutting the umbilical cord. In 2015, almost 83% of newborns worldwide were protected via immunisation, but mother-infant tetanus is still a public health problem in 19 poor countries, mainly in Africa and Asia.

Quichua midwives in Ecuador traditionally cut the cord using a wamajkara, an instrument made of bamboo bark with a sharp point. It was for once only use and was sterilised by boiling in medicinal water, wrapped in banana leaves. The umbilical cord was tied using a string (Palandakarawaska) made from banana fibre which was also boiled.

The last case of neonatal tetanus was diagnosed in Spain in 1982.