A report published online in the journal The Lancet Global Health this week revealed that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused 50% fewer women in Nepal than usual to give birth in hospitals, resulting in higher risks for premature births, stillborn deliveries and newborn deaths.
The study, conducted in nine hospitals across Nepal found that the stillbirth rate at hospitals and birthing centres increased from 14 per 1,000 before the lockdown to 21, and the neonatal mortality increased from 13 per 1,000 livebirths to 40.
Filmmaker Deepak Rauniyar says his role is to examine the society he grew up in (south-eastern Nepal), not to make movies that entertain. That said, the director recently told the Nepal Now podcast that his upcoming film he will try to deliver his social commentary wrapped up in the genre of a police thriller.
Researching this article for The New Humanitarian it became clearer than ever that the status of maternal health in Nepal is cloudy at the best of times since accurate data is unavailable. In the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s really a guess: everyone assumes it’s getting worse but no one is sure. The local office of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) was supposed to start an assessment with the Government of Nepal late in June but it has yet to begin. Read on:
As home births rise in Nepal, so do fears for maternal health
Home births are rising in Nepal as fewer pregnant women visit hospitals, fuelling fears that the coronavirus pandemic could reverse years of progress on maternal health in the South Asian nation.
The government says less than half of pregnancies are now taking place in health facilities, compared with about 70 percent before coronavirus lockdowns began in March. A separate survey of health facilities across Nepal, conducted by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) in April, found that visits by pregnant women had dropped as much as 50 percent.
In June, Nirmala Joshi, 24, walked two hours to her nearest hospital in Baitadi, a mountainous district in Nepal’s remote far west, for her first prenatal check-up.
When will a Nepali leader apologise for the 1,200-plus women who die giving birth yearly?
The headline of this story refers to Nepal Prime Minister KP Oli, who a couple of weeks ago admitted in Parliament that his government had failed to prevent COVID-19 deaths. (As I write this Nepal has four COVID deaths). When the article was published on the Nepali Times website the headline was changed, removing that point. Regardless, too many women, and other Nepalis, continue dying because of the broken health system.
It shouldn’t be surprising that Nepal’s first COVID-19 death was that of a new mother. It was startling to learn that Prime Minister Oli admitted in Parliament on Tuesday that Nepal’s two coronavirus deaths to date represent a failure of his government. This raises the question: when will a leader apologise for the more than 1,200 women who die every year giving birth? Continue reading →
If the current trend doesn’t change it will take the poorest Nepali families 50 years longer than the wealthiest ones to reach the target for the number of newborn deaths per capita. As the Covid-19 pandemic is leading to discussion about what kind of societies we want to live in, Nepal’s growing inequality should also be on the table. Read my latest article for Nepali Times.
The overall trend in neo-natal deaths is positive, but the poorest families will lag behind further as inequality grows
According to a recent journal article, it will be 2067 before newborn deaths among the poorest Nepalis have fallen enough to reach the global target set for 2030. That target, of 12 or fewer deaths per 1,000 live births, was attained by the wealthiest in Nepal four years ago, but the impact of COVID-19 may increase inequality and make it even more difficult for the country to reduce infant mortality.
If the pandemic shutdown is an opportunity to reimagine our societies, what should Nepal make of the widening gap in newborn deaths? Yes, overall trends are improving — both maternal and newborn health have made major gains in recent decades — but the poorest families are still lagging behind.
Chhaupadi is the traditional practice in parts of rural western Nepal of segregating women and girls outdoors when they have their periods. In the past decade, more than a dozen women have been killed while staying in a chhau (shed), some from a snakebite, others after lighting a fire to say warm then suffocating in a windowless building. Women and girls in sheds are also at risk of sexual assault.
In recent years there has been increasing focus on chhaupadi, including various attempts to end it, such as demolishing sheds, criminalising the practice and threatening to withhold social security payments from anyone involved in the practice. I wrote the article below for Nepali Times after learning that one hospital in the region has had great success in getting its community nurses to discontinue chhaupadi.
Tipping point on menstrual banishment in Nepal
It is easy to be cynical about recent reports of actions taken to end chhaupadi, the traditional practice in parts of western Nepal of segregating menstruating women.
The workload for women like Nanimaya Dhungana in Kavre district in Nepal (above) has likely increased because of the climate crisis. PHOTO: Kumar Acharya/ Nepali Times
This article was published in Nepali Times on Friday. I found the arguments difficult to follow, but I think the main point is that even when support appears to be available to assist women to adapt to challenges, like the impacts of climate change, they still lose some of their power as they are forced to adapt.
Given that programmes are being developed to assist those hardest-hit by climate change — mostly in low-income countries — that finding is important. Please read on!
Women in Asia and Africa hardest hit by climate change have a tough time adapting to the climate emergency, even with support from family or the state, finds a new study. The results raise questions for global agreements designed to help people adapt to the climate emergency, it adds.
Shae-Lyn McAllister is the fourth women to go missing from Robyn Lawson’s family in Canada since 1988.
On 25 August Robyn Lawson posted on Twitter that three women in her family had disappeared in Canada in the last three years. Robyn is Indigenous, one of about 1.6 million Indigenous people in Canada (5% of the population).
In June, the report of a national inquiry found:
“First Nations, Inuit, and Métis women and girls and (LGBTQI) people in Canada … have been the targets of violence for far too long. This truth is undeniable … (and) amounts to a race-based genocide of Indigenous Peoples, including First Nations, Inuit, and Métis, which especially targets women.”
I have read much over the years about the experiences of Indigenous People living in Canada (and written about some of them in this blog and beyond). But Robyn’s tweet hit me hard — it’s difficult to imagine three people disappearing from my family.
I wrote and asked Robyn, who is an activist for Indigenous people’s rights, to describe those incidents and the broader context of the lives of Indigenous women and girls in Canada. Her powerful, authoritative answers, lightly edited by me, are below.
Can you tell me about the 3 women in your family that you Tweeted about — they all went missing in the last 3 years?
There were actually four that went missing within my family, all cousins. The fourth went missing in 1988 from a Cultus Lake campground in British Columbia (province) after she accepted a ride that was to take her home to Surrey, BC. She has never been found. Her name is Roberta Ferguson, and she was 19 years old at the time she was taken. Continue reading →
As the ‘custodian’ of Mt Everest, the Nepal Government must make changes to how it manages the precious global resource. But far below, leaders are struggling to overcome other obstacles that block the country’s graduation from least-developing country status.
Earlier this month a National Geographic team set up the world’s highest weather station, very close to the peak of Mt Everest. Its purpose is to monitor the Central Asian Jet Stream, to see how winds and moisture move above 29,000 feet and affect the warming climate. In effect the multinational team has also opened a window to the land where glaciers are born.
With great potential for gleaning information about this much celebrated, increasingly exploited, but little known environment, the weather stations are a exciting advance. Yet you get the feeling that the die is already cast: like its neighbours in the Himalaya Hindu-Kush (HKH) range, Everest is melting.
2/3 of glaciers could melt by 2100
The worst-case scenario in a recent assessment predicts that two-thirds of glaciers in the HKH, which spans from Afghanistan to China, will melt by 2100. Earlier last week another team of scientists announced they found the internal temperatures of the Khumbu glacier on Everest to be higher than expected, just -3.3C. They predicted accelerated melting in the short term, followed by flooding, droughts and unstable, dangerous conditions for climbers.
This climate peril illustrates the double-barrel challenge facing countries like Nepal: they must provide the basics expected from an increasingly wealthy, globally-savvy population — such as infrastructure, health and education — and at the same time confront global threats like the climate crisis and deadly non-communicable diseases (NCDs) that bedevil rich and poor countries alike. Continue reading →
Praying for Peace during the Maoist insurgency in Nepal (1996-2006)
Media reports focused on the need to revise rape laws to ensure access to justice but the government must also investigate the arrest, detention and rape by soldiers during the Maoist insurgency
On 21 May the UN Human Rights Committee published a decision about a Nepali woman who was abducted by Nepali soldiers during the Maoist insurgency (1996-2006), taken to army barracks, tortured, raped and forced to work for the soldiers. Then 14 years old, the girl was released six weeks later after her family intervened. Continue reading →