Gorkhatimes

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The long road to safe motherhood in Nepal

Posted by Ramesh Khati on July 3, 2009

Women in Nepal face the highest risk of maternal death in South Asia. The country’s high rates of maternal death and reproductive morbidity will be discussed today at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) South Asia Day. The conference gathers together a group of international experts to discuss ways to achieve Millennium Development Goals 4 (reduce child mortality) and 5 (improve maternal health).

While efforts have been made to improve maternal health in Nepal, the maternal mortality ratio still stands at 281 deaths per 100,000 live births. The majority of women (81%) deliver at home, and less than 19% of births take place with the assistance of a Skilled Birth Attendant.

Key challenges include the limited number of health workers in Nepal, as well as the inadequacy of emergency obstetric care services. Women also face barriers due to costs, lack of transportation and long distances to health facilities.

Dr Pushpa Chaudhary, from the Paropkar Maternity and Women’s Hospital in Kathmandu, said ‘For the first time in the history of Nepal, the new Interim Constitution has declared the state’s commitment and responsibility for people’s health. Free maternity services and a safe delivery incentive program have been launched, but it is important to ensure quality of services and regular funding to sustain the program.

‘Maternal health should always be a priority. Resources must be allocated equitably, especially for rural and poor women, who are often more vulnerable and marginalised. We need donor agencies to continue to support the program and to invest more in long term solutions such as developing and establishing professional midwifery in Nepal. Women should be provided with information and education, and the media must be mobilised to highlight the high death toll due to pregnancy and childbirth.’

‘Saving mothers’ and newborns’ lives remains a priority political commitment but more effort is needed to meet these challenges.’

Source:Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists

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