The Universal Declaration of Human Rights has stressed right to life, which means human rights should begin at birth. It is the right of every human to be born healthy, without any complications that hamper his/her physical, mental and professional growth. For this, the lives of mothers and their babies need to be saved with timely health services and interventions. Thousands of mothers and their newborns die from preventable health problems before, during and after the childbirth.
It is necessary to increase women’s access to quality health services to reduce their untimely deaths. Proper antenatal care, a skilled midwife during the childbirth and regular check-ups of the young children are crucial to save the lives of both. Several studies have indicated that maternal and newborn nutrition saves lives, bring happiness and promote economic development and prosperity in the society. If the newborns are able to receive proper nutrition in the first 1,000 days, this will enable them to start a healthy life. At the same time, pregnant women also need good nutrition for their own and babies’ health.
Realising that health is the fundamental right of the people, Nepal government has attached high priority to Maternal and Neonatal Health (MNH), making substantial achievements in maternal care and modest achievements in curbing the neonatal deaths. As per the government’s target for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the country has to reduce the number of under-five mortality rate to 27 deaths per 1,000 live births by 2022.
Nepal Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS)-2022 report shows improvement in cutting the child mortality rate in the last five years but it is yet to meet the target. In order to fulfil the SDGs, Nepal has committed to reducing the Maternal Mortality Rate to 70 per 100,000 live births and neonatal mortality to 12 per 1,000 live births, and to achieve coverage of 90 per cent for four antenatal care (ANC) visits, institutional delivery, skilled birth attendants (SBA) delivery, and three postnatal (PSN) check-ups by 2030, according to the news report of this daily published on Sunday.
There has been significant improvement in the reduction of under-five mortality and infant mortality but neonatal mortality rate has remained the same since 2016 when around 39 children died per 1,000 live births and it has declined only from 50 to 21 deaths per 1,000 live births. The NDHS 2022 report states that 33 children die per 1,000 live births. The neonatal deaths are associated with the health complications of mothers.
The charges of birth delivery are free but the costs of neonatal care such as skilled care at birth, postnatal care for mother and baby, and care of preterm baby and sick newborns is high. There has been a tendency of not treating sick newborns, which also leads to rise in the neonatal deaths. Most of the neonatal deaths take place during the first 48 hours of delivery so there should be prompt postnatal care to cure the health problems of newborns.
It is imperative to increase the vaccination coverage of children to reduce child mortality rate. Around five per cent of children, who were deprived of vaccination in the last five years need to be immunised within 12 to 23 months. With the enhanced child nutritious status, the prevalence of height-for-age (stunting) and weight-for-height (wasting) have remarkably declined. Similarly, there is the need for giving momentum to the progress made in slashing the maternal mortality rate. But challenges persist in fighting anaemia among the pregnant women as it leads to maternal deaths and poor birth outcomes.