Nepali women risk their lives to give birth
In Nepal, 64% of pregnant women still deliver their babies at home without the assistance of a Skilled Birth Attendant (SBA). The poorest families have no access to prenatal care or any SBA to help them through the delivery. It is no wonder that every four hours, a woman dies due to complications of pregnancy or childbirth, nearly half of them needlessly bleeding to death. When a new mother does survive, the odds are that her baby will not. Every hour, two Nepali newborns take their final breath, most of them less than a day old.
The problem is not that there is a lack of hospitals in Nepal
In fact, there are several regional hospitals staffed with highly trained obstetric and pediatric medical professionals. The government sponsors SBA training courses and supports a few outlying facilities to provide urgent and preventive care for pregnancy and delivery complications. The problem is that these centers are open only during business hours and the roads to get to them are often impassable. Many Nepali women live hours, or even days, from the nearest road or transportation to the hospital.
The Nepali Government is trying to help, but…
Despite the enormous national and global efforts to prioritize neonatal survival, the annual global rate of decline for neonatal mortality has remained stagnant. The majority of neonatal death occurs within poor, rural, underserved areas and may not be accurately reflected by the mortality rates reported at the national level. For example, in 2011, the national neonatal mortality rate in Nepal was reported to be 27/1,000 live births, whereas at that same time in Dolpa, a remote district in which we work, the neonatal mortality rate was more than three times that amount at 98/1,000 live births.
While Nepal’s maternal mortality ratio has improved substantially in the last few decades, maternal health indicators are still very poor in the remote hilly and mountain areas. In these remote regions, the availability and quality of maternal health services continue to create a challenge to combating maternal and newborn mortality.
The Nepali health ministry recognizes that expanded coverage of effective outreach, community-based care programs and trained providers could help reduce the number of maternal and infant deaths, but so far, impact in the most remote areas has been limited.
Based on our successful program in Tibet, we have formed an INGO in Nepal, to work with the government to implement our safe motherhood in Western Nepal. Soon the 250,000 people living in rural communities scattered along the foothills of the Himalayas will have the resources and training to help women survive childbirth and to give their babies a chance to thrive.