Is Nepal well?Indicators released in 2016 health survey show that province specific intervention is needed
A full report of the 2016 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) was released on Monday. While the health indicators show an overall improvement in healthcare, knowledge about health related issues and family planning in Nepal compared to a decade ago, breaking down the results by province shows that there is a serious need for stronger health and education intervention in Province 2 in particular.
The DHS is an internationally recognised survey that produces data on fertility, family planning, maternal and child health, gender, HIV/AIDS, malaria, and nutrition. The data from DHS is a vital tool to assess health programmes and opt for corrective measures. This is the first year in which the DHS indicators were broken down according to provinces. This breakdown of the results should, ideally, help the central government and the respective provincial governments tailor comprehensive, made-to-fit public health plans for each region. It has already shown us the regions—mainly Province 2 and the far-west—that have been left behind by the government and major political parties when it comes to public health provision and fuelling awareness.
The findings reveal that, on average, more children are surviving early childhood than ever before with a sharp decline in under-five mortality from 118 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1996 to 39 deaths per the same in 2016. However, the mortality figures in Provinces 2, 6 and 7 are a whopping 52, 58 and 69 respectively. Related to this, a mother from Province 2 gives birth to three children against 1.8 children in Province 3 while the national average is 2.3. Besides, 27 percent of the mothers aged between 15 and 19 years were found to be pregnant in Province 2, while the figures for Province 6 and 7 were also among the highest, at 19 percent and 16 percent respectively. When you compare Province 2 to the national average on childhood vaccination, you can pick up on a vicious trend. Only 65 percent of children aged between 12 and 23 months were administered basic vaccines in Province 2, against the national average of 78 percent. Experts say low literacy rate is behind much of this.
The areas with low family planning, low healthcare education and low literacy are shown to have the highest number of pregnancies per mother, the lowest percentage of basic vaccinations administered and the highest rates of infant mortality. This should be a no brainer. That the least-developed far-west region reports such numbers shows that the government’s development efforts there have not focused enough on public health awareness. And the fact that Province 2—which has been a political hotbed for all major political parties—has such high numbers points to the insincerity of these parties to truly develop the region. Hopefully, the upcoming elections will bring about change in the region, with elected leaders sincerely focusing on their constituents to provide better public health and education.