Lack of budget deprives mothers of maternity allowance
February 26, 2019 05:21 AM NPT
By: Bira Gadal
BAITADI, Feb 26: Shanti Bohora of Purchudi Municipality - 8 delivered baby at a local health post nine months ago. During her pregnancy, she never failed to show up at the health post for a regular checkup.
This entitled her to maternity allowance worth Rs 2000 and Rs 800 extra for regular health check up. She was supposed to receive the said amount at the time of discharge from hospital post delivery. However, so far, she has not received the amount.
"I asked the health post officials for the allowance and they informed me that I will receive the money. They didn't say when, but it would have helped me very much if they had provided it," she said.
Such cases are not rare here. There are many women who recount the same story. Health posts, birthing centers or government hospitals where they go for regular health checkup during pregnancy and for delivering their babies are not handing them over the allowance citing lack of budget. In rural areas, delaying or depriving the mother of allowance impacts the well being of the baby and the mother.
"For us, Rs 2000 means a lot. With the money, we can buy essential things including nourishing diet and warm clothes for ourselves and the baby," Bohora explained. "Even our family members look forward to it and is part of the budget for neonatal care."
According to a health worker Rewati Kunwar where Bohora delivered her baby, it has been months since the maternal allowance has not been distributed in the lack of budget.
"The municipality has not released money to our health post for a long time. And as such, we have been not able to provide the allowance to mothers," she said. "All we have been able to provide is a bag."
The bag is part of the program which is provided to new mothers so that they can keep all the essentials for taking care of their babies. Kunwar added that she has provided some cash from her pocket to a few needy mothers in the early months of not receiving the budget. But continuing to do so became impractical for her, she said. "Thinking that I could recover the amount after budget arrives here, I even gave away some of the mothers from my own pocket. But I soon realized that I cannot continue to do so as there were no indications for the budget to come through," she said.
Health Coordinator at the municipality, Binod Kunwar, said that the municipality has not received the required budget from the government. He said that they have also not received salaries of the officials from the government.
Shiva Kumar Kathariya, chief of Joshibunga Health Post in Dasharathchand Municipality - 9, said that they have requested the new-mothers to collect the money once it is released to the health posts. "They will get it, though it could not be on time," he said. "We have not been able to give them allowance since the last five months as we have not received it."
Most would-be mothers in rural areas are also aware of the allowance they are entitled to if they follow the government guidelines. This is basically the reason why a growing number of women from rural areas, go to health posts for regular maternity checkup during pregnancy and go to a hospital for delivering their babies. Deferring the payment leaves them disappointed and agitated, Kathariya said.
"Many times, they have quarreled with us. When we say there's no budget, they look suspicious as if we have done it willingly," he lamented.
He stated that women keep visiting health post in hope of getting the allowance. 'But it is not known by when the budget would be released'. "Some women keeping calling several times a day, we are really tired of turning them down."
Targeting safe motherhood, the government has been expanding birthing centers. Though reports indicate that not all of those centers are operational, there has come a huge change in women's access to health centers during pregnancy in the later years. "But this kind of gap in providing the allowance is going to hit such progress," Kathariya warns.
The same is the voice of Sonal Rai, a health worker at Joshibunga Health Post. In lack of budget, women are forced to go home empty handed, she said.
"Though it had once become a norm to send them off with cash, the program has come to a standstill now. We have to send them home without money while assuring them that they would get it very soon. But we ourselves don't know when that will be. " she said.
There is one government hospital, two primary health center, 68 health posts, 126 health units and birthing centers in the district. Most of those health facilities offer gyno and maternity services. Before the implementation of federalism, the Health Ministry released a budget to those facilities directly. However, after the local bodies coming into existence, a process for allocating budget to such facilities is yet to be streamlined. Such a delay has deprived the new mothers of the allowance.