Premature births, stillbirths rise in Nepal during pandemic — Lancet

A pregnant woman undergoes a checkup at Baitadi District Hospital in June 2020 © Ganesh Shahi/ UNFPA.

This article was published in Nepali Times online, 14 August 2020.

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.

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Fears for maternal health rise in Nepal with coronavirus

A woman sits with her baby outside her shop in the city of Bhaktapur near Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, in June 2014. The government says fewer women are giving birth in health facilities during the coronavirus pandemic. (Navesh Chitrakar/REUTERS)

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.

Read the full article.

‘We have failed’ new mothers

Members of a mothers group in Banke district, Nepal, 2018. © Marty Logan

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

Happy Birthday Nepali Times!

Nepali Times newspaper, which I’ve been connected with on and off since 2005, celebrated its 1,000th issue and 20-year anniversary on 6 March. Congratulations to founder, publisher and Nepali Times dynamo Kunda Dixit!

I wrote an article in Friday’s paper to mark the occasion. See it on the Times website, and below:

Times change, but the Nepali Times stays the same

It was easy for me to get in the door of the Nepali Times after I first moved to Nepal in 2005: Editor Kunda Dixit and I shared ties with the Inter Press Service News agency – me from North America, he from Asia. Continue reading

New mothers get rice, rupees & a rooster!

Bhojpur doo-to-door health campaign

Officials from Arun Rural Municipality in Nepal’s Bhojpur district give a rooster to a new mother on 29 March 2019. The programme to support new mothers started in January.  Photo: The Himalayan Times

Time for me to walk my talk.

Following up on my last post about not dwelling on the negative in Nepal, I’m highlighting a very small but positive development. Municipal officials in Bhojpur district in the country’s east started a programme in January to visit new mothers.

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Nepal’s villagers; Canada’s Indigenous People

A Nepali woman gets a pre-birth checkup. (c) UNICEF.

On the surface they are poles apart: Canada, one of the world’s most ‘developed’ nations and Nepal, still classified as a least developed country. But still, I keep finding parallels between villagers in Nepal and Canada’s poorest — Indigenous People. (See a previous post). Continue reading