More pills, still no magic—maternal health care in the hills of Nepal

Late last year I returned to Chimling Village in Sindhupalchowk district, in Nepal, to follow up on maternal health issues. I was impressed and disappointed at the same time.

Late last year I returned to Chimling Village in Nepal’s Sindhupalchowk district to follow up on maternal health issues. I was impressed and disappointed at the same time.

I first visited the cluster of tiny cement houses at the top of a steep, rocky and rutted dirt road in March 2021. My goal was to trace an essential drug called misoprostol, which is used to stop bleeding after birth (also known as post-partum haemorrhage). There was a major shortage of the drug in 2020, so Nepal’s Ministry of Health had requested help from the international community.

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“He said he could get another wife (instead) for 50,000 rupees”

Kathmandu-born epidemiologist Dr Lhamo Sherpa says that early in her career she began questioning the treatment of women in Nepal

Working at a community hospital in Bouddha, Kathmandu soon after graduating with a medical degree exposed Dr. Lhamo Sherpa to situations that made her reassess the lives being lived by women in Nepal. For example, “there was this childless couple who came for advice. After all the investigations, when I told him the price for in-vitro fertilization… the husband said that he could get another wife (instead) for 50,000 rupees.”

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Nepal, India and other countries fight — and succeed — to have sacred objects returned

Nepal and India are just two of many countries fighting successfully to recover sacred objects stolen from temples and displayed in museums and galleries worldwide.

God Laxmi-Narayan is returned to a temple in Patan, Kathmandu Valley, 4 Dec. 2021, PHOTO: Amit Machamasi/Nepali Times

I have lived in Nepal for more than a decade but it’s only in the last couple of years that I noticed the movement to have cultural objects that were looted over the years returned from museums, galleries and other collections around the world.

It reminded me of the North American campaign by Indigenous peoples to have their ancestors’ remains repatriated from the world’s museums. The Haida people living on the Pacific coast of Canada have been particularly active, and successful.

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Maternal health of Rohingya refugee women improving despite huge challenges

Maternal health in Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh continues to make gains despite huge logistical, financial and cultural impediments

A mother and children in a refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. PHOTO: UNFPA

Twenty years ago I visited what were commonly called ‘Bhutanese refugee camps’ in southeastern Nepal. (In fact, they were camps of tens of thousands of Nepali-origin people living in Bhutan who had been brutally evicted from that country, with the tacit assent of regional superpower India. But that’s another story.) The tiny bamboo huts where people had to make their new lives were laid out in regular grids on the beaten earth of Nepal’s Tarai or plains region.

So when I imagined the Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, that image of rows upon rows of tidy, tiny, bamboo buildings came to mind. It couldn’t be further from the truth. The massive Rohingya camps (housing close to 900,000 people) are located on hilly terrain. Because the Bangladesh Government refuses to recognize the Rohingya — who fled similar ethnic cleansing in neighbouring Myanmar — as official refugees, their ‘homes’ are not uniform buildings but a collection of irregular huts covering the hills.

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Updates to Nepal’s rape law erased

Revising Nepal’s rape law is a priority but reducing cases of this violent act requires a societal shift

Activists in Kathmandu protest rising numbers of rape and sexual assault cases, October 2020. PHOTO: Courtesy of Ajhai kati sahane?

Almost one year ago, in January 2021, the Government of Nepal updated the country’s rape law. The changes were incomplete, partly because agreed revisions like widening the definition to include men and boys as victims were deleted at the last minute, but it was an improvement.

Changes that were agreed included increasing jail time for those found guilty and criminalizing any attempts to ‘settle’ a rape case outside of the courts, which is a regular occurrence.

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Right to health still largely ignored in Nepal

“The health system remains unprepared and unlawfully in defiance of a range of orders of the Supreme Court”

A health camp in rural Nepal. PHOTO: Marty Logan

The right to health in Nepal during Covid-19 remains largely a paper promise. In June I wrote about how the government had largely ignored orders from the Supreme Court to act immediately to meet its health commitments in both international and domestic law.

Today the International Commission of Jurists, whose 2020 briefing paper was the centre point of my article, released an updated version—it is equally depressing.

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A tall order

A couple of decades ago Nepal was a world leader in fighting nutrition, especially stunting (low height for age). Can it regain that position in time to reach targets in 2025 and 2030?

Lunch time at a Mothers Group meeting in Achham District in 2018. PHOTO: Marty Logan

A white-coated nurse holding a blue and white, half-litre bag of milk stands in front of a small group of mothers seated near the entrance of the Nutrition Rehabilitation Home in Kathmandu. 

She is explaining the importance of feeding milk to their children, who are lolling on their mothers’ laps. On a table behind the nurse are containers of pulses and legumes and leaning against the wall, charts displaying leafy vegetables.

But later, listening to the women’s stories, it is apparent that solving their children’s problems will require more than a healthy diet. Through tears, Chandra, 24, says she brought her son Raju, 21 months, to the Home after a routine hospital check-up found that he was malnourished. 

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A towering challenge: get the world to notice Asia’s melting mountains

A view of the Hindu Kush Himalaya. Photo: Alex Treadway/ ICIMOD

It’s not simply that the snow and glaciers on the Hindu Kush Himalaya mountains are melting: they supply water to 3 billion people in Asia. What will they drink when the mountains, also known as the Third Pole, are dry?

And what will happen to the 240 million people who live in the HKH, which stretch from Afghanistan to Myanmar and tower over eight countries in total, including Nepal?

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Introducing Strive podcast

Strive, a new podcast from IPS News, hosted by Marty Logan

This is a short post to announce that I’m hosting a new podcast, Strive, by IPS News. It is similar to Nepal Now, a podcast I created one year ago, but with a global vision.

Our first episode, about a civil-society led campaign to boost mask wearing to fight Covid-19 in South Asia, is online and more will soon follow.

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Right this wrong done to women

I really appreciated this editorial in The Kathmandu Post on Wednesday, 21 July. It linked two things I care about—human rights and maternal health.

A community health unit and a birthing centre were established in Dhiri four months ago but the number of service seekers is minimal. Prakash Baral/TKP

I really appreciated this editorial in The Kathmandu Post on Wednesday, 21 July. It linked two things I care about—human rights and maternal health.

It noted that the United Nations Human Rights Council has just released a statement calling on governments worldwide to ensure that women’s right to sexual and reproductive health is ensured, among other things. The paper linked that with its recent reporting about women in remote areas of Nepal giving birth at home and even in sheds!

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