Saving pregnant women, new mothers, newborns, and elderly a challenge, Jajarkot health officials sayThe home ministry has deployed experts to the earthquake-hit Jajarkot and Rukum West districts for clinical mentoring of survivors.
Sharmila BK, a 25-year-old new mother from ward 8 of Nalgad Municipality in Jajarkot district, died on Sunday. It is reported that the woman, who gave birth to her baby a month ago, died of hypothermia, a medical emergency in which the body loses heat faster than it produces.
Health officials from the district, however, said that infection was the reason for the new mother’s death.
A one-month-old baby from Bheri Municipality of Jajarkot died of pneumonia some two weeks ago. Doctors at the district hospital, where the baby was rushed for treatment after his condition deteriorated, had referred the baby to Nepalgunj upon arrival at the hospital emergency. However, the baby succumbed to the complications, before his parents could take him anywhere.
Around two dozen people including children and a new mother died from cold-related ailments since the magnitude 6.4 earthquake hit Jajarkot and Rukum West of Karnali Province on November 3.
“Hundreds of quake-displaced pregnant women, new mothers, small children and elderly people have been affected by the cold,” said Krishna Bahadur Khatri, an official at the Health Office, Jajarkot. “As the temperature drops day by day, we are worried particularly about small children, pregnant women, new mothers and elderly people.”
Health workers deployed in the affected areas said that the number of people suffering from cold-related ailments has been growing in health facilities of the affected areas.
“Around 70 ailing people visit our hospital every day for treatment of cold-related ailments,” said Dr Bishal Upreti serving at a primary hospital in Nalgad municipality. “Along with respiratory illness, small children have been infected with winter diarrhoea.”
Health workers deployed in affected villages for surveillance reported that pregnant women and new mothers complained of fear of not getting proper care during emergencies in the local health facilities.
“A seven-month pregnant woman complained that she has been worried all the time,” said Sumitra Khadka, a health worker at Khalanga of Bheri Municipality. “The lives of children, pregnant women, new mothers and elderly people have become miserable due to the cold. We are living under tarpaulin tents that do not protect us from the cold.”
Officials from the Ministry of Health and Population concede that saving vulnerable populations has become a challenge in the quake-affected areas. They said that the displaced people should be shifted to temporary shelters from tents at the earliest to protect them.
The Health Ministry has also deployed experts for onsite clinical mentoring in the health facilities of the two affected districts.
“Experts will see the child delivery process and correct the problems if any at the health facilities,” said Nisha Joshi, an official at the Family Welfare Division under the Department of Health Services. “We hope that this measure will help to lessen maternal and child mortality rate in the affected districts.”
The onsite clinical monitoring programme is aimed at improving obstetric and newborn care and assesses its effectiveness on nurses’ knowledge and skill. Officials hope that the move will help to reduce maternal and child deaths in the quake-affected districts.
A report on maternal mortality carried out by the National Statistics Office in 2021 showed that for every 100,000 live births, 151 women still died from maternity-related complications.
Nepal had cut the maternal mortality rate from 539 per 100,000 births in 1996 to 239 per 100,000 births in 2016—for which the country even received a Millennium Development Goals award.
Nepal’s target under the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals is to reduce the maternal mortality rate to 75 per 100,000 births by 2030.