EHS-COVID (431) Reproductive health (23) Guardian: Nepal sees huge rise in maternal deaths as Covid keeps women at home

15 July, 2021

Extracts below from The Guardian (UK) news website. Read online: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2021/jul/15/nepal-sees-hu...

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Thu 15 Jul 2021

Nepal sees huge rise in maternal deaths as Covid keeps women at home

Health workers fear deaths could reach levels not seen this century as up to 90% miss check-ups and many opt for home births.

Nepal’s maternal health services were fragile before the pandemic. The country has no midwives [*see note below] so women give birth with the help of auxiliary nurses like Urmila, or skilled birth attendants.

But since the start of the pandemic, maternal deaths have soared. According to the department of health, 258 women died as a result of pregnancy or childbirth between March 2020 and June 2021. Thirty-three women had Covid-19. In the year before March 2020, the country recorded 51 maternal deaths.

Neonatal deaths have also increased, from 13 deaths per 1,000 live births before lockdown to 40 deaths per 1,000 live births during the first lockdown...

Paropakar maternity and women’s hospital, the oldest and best maternity hospital in the capital, Kathmandu, recorded a more than 50% decline in antenatal checkups since the pandemic...

Nirmala Mijar, from Bajura district in the west of the country, says she has not had a proper antenatal checkup for five months. The 20-year-old fears visiting a health centre for her first pregnancy. “I am so scared to go to the nearest health post after hearing they have had cases of coronavirus,” she said. “I am giving birth next month and I am still confused whether I try home delivery or go to the health post.”

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Neil Pakenham-Walsh, HIFA Coordinator, neil@hifa.org www.hifa.org