Download More women die in Nepal during child birth than any where else in South Asia.
Most of the deaths happen due to complications during the delivery stage.
Many women have their babies at home because they can’t afford to pay for the medical bills or the transport cost to get to the hospital or health clinic.
But now a government program that PAYS women to see a doctor and give birth in a hospital is having a huge impact.
Sunil Neupane reports from Kathmandu.
It’s 8 o’clock in the morning in Thaiba village.
Community health worker Binita Mahat is persuading five month pregnant Sushma to come to the local health clinic for a check-up.
“In the past when I ask them to go to the health centre usually they said they do not have any money, so how can they go? But now I can say to them that they do not need extra money… they will be given some money instead. So nobody in my village is giving birth at home now.”
As of last year pregnant women like Sushma who have regular medicial check-ups are given money by the government, around 6 USD for four visits. It’s meant to cover their transport costs.
If they give birth in a hospital or health clinic they receive between 7-20 US dollars depending on where they live.
In a country where the average family income is under 2 USD per day, this incentive is encouraging.
“With this effort, pregnant ladies are coming more and more to the hospital for the institutional delivery.”
Dr. Suman Tamrakar is a Senior Obstetrician at the private Dhulikhel hospital on the outskirts of Kathmandu.
“Previously even though they want to come to the hospital due to their low economic status and their hardly having money for paying for the transportation cost, they were having difficulty. Now they know whenever they will go for hospital delivery, they are getting money also. At least it will be a benefit to get the transportation cost. So if we analyze the hospital data over the last one and half years, hospital delivery is increased by around 50 to 60 percent.”
30-year-old Phoolmaya Tamang is holding her newborn baby.
It’s her third child, but this is her first time she has give birth in a hospital.
“This was the first time of my life to come for a prenatal check up because I was having some difficulties with my pregnancy. The local health worker suggested me to go to higher center. If I was not taken here, I could have died.”
She comes from Sindhupalchowk district which has one of the high maternal mortality rates in the country.
Her husband, Dhanbadhur Tamang is thrilled with his new child.
“At first I did not believe the local health worker who suggested we go to a health centre. I tried to return home. But they finally convinced me that it would be dangerous for my wife to give birth at home so I took her here. I think we made a good decision.”
In 2006, only 18 percent of women in Nepal gave birth in a hospital.
But according to this year’s government health survey that number has increased to nearly 30 percent.
19-year-old Ganga Pariyar is from the lowest Hindu untouchable caste.
Her family is very poor and she has had two miscarriages.
But with the governments financial incentives she has just given birth in a hospital to a healthy baby.
“Near my village there is a health post which conducts normal delivery only. But they told me that I had some complications due to short stature. When I came here the doctor told me I should go for an operation and within two hours they operated and delivered a male baby.”
Today she is going home.
Nepal is now moving closer to meet the Millennium Development Goal of significantly reducing deaths during child birth.
However Dr. Suman Tamrakar says there is still a long way to go - particularly in rural areas.
“If you go to remote areas the scenario is devastating. On average in Nepal only 20/25 percent people are coming for health institution delivery. So we have to do a lot.”