Nepal: Maternal Health Care Challenges

Last week, two high profile visits brought maternal health care challenges in Nepal into media spotlight. Geri Halliwell, member of now defunct British pop group Spice Girls was in Nepal to draw attention to the country's dismal maternal health care system.

She did not limit her visit to the capital but went to the country side to learn more about the issue and called for better care for mothers and new born.

Well known Hollywood celebrity blogger Perez Hilton praised Halliwell's mission. His post also points to an alarming statistics of maternal mortality in Nepal.

“According to the UN, there is a one in 31 mortality rate for Nepalese women following child birth due to poor conditions, living in remote areas and the condition of uterine prolapse, which affects one in 10 mothers.”

Geri Halliwell received a warm welcome from the people and the Nepalese government too. But her interaction with Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal received some scrutiny from the tabloids. Indian television network Star TV tried to portray the customary greeting kiss between Mr. Nepal and Halliwell as “controversial”.

Viewers though have a different view on the “controversy”. Shulav83 at Star News YouTube Channel comments:

“Don't make mountain out of a molehill..doesn't india's media have something else to report about???”

The Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson's two day visit to Nepal did not create any such ripples. She was in the country with the White Ribbon Alliance to promote maternal health.

Sarah Sanyahumbi, head of British development organization DFID's Nepal division posted about the Duchess’ Nepal visit in the organization's blog. Sanyahumbi says maternal health care in Nepal is not up to the mark but things are improving.

“…despite all the challenges in this country, there has been really good progress on this issue and the numbers of women dying in childbirth has fallen by nearly half. But still, every four hours in Nepal a woman dies due to pregnancy and/or childbirth complications, and 6 in 100 children will not see their fifth birthdays…..”.

High maternal mortality rates in Nepal mask another serious health risk to Nepalese women – Uterine Prolapse. It is a condition where the womb falls out of the vagina. In western Nepal about 600,000 women suffer from this painful condition. It happens when a woman returns to hard manual work too soon after childbirth.

Here is a video by Sudaron Karki on this issue, uploaded by YouTube user snowheadcouk, with personal accounts from women who suffer from the condition. (WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES)

Visits by Geri Halliwell and the Duchess of York certainly brought the issue of maternal health in Nepal into media spotlight but it will take more than high profile celebrity visits to bring relief to Nepalese mothers who suffer because of deep seated prejudice and lack of awareness.

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