Women in Karnali are dying due to delivery-related complications and the state response to this serious problem has not gone much beyond airlifting of some desperate women to cities including Kathmandu for treatment. Again even such short-term measures have not been effective enough. More women are dying of pregnancy-related complications which could be easily averted if the government equipped health facilities in remote regions with trained human resources and adequate infrastructure. Death toll due to birth-related complications seems to be rising in recent months in Karnali. On Wednesday, Roop Kumari Bohara, 22, of Dolpa died. Soon after her labor pain, she was rushed to Nepalgunj but she couldn’t receive successful delivery treatment and lost her life. On July 28, Devi Sahakari, 30, of Kalikot died due to excessive bleeding during pregnancy. Anarupa Tamata, 20, of Humla met the same fate. They represent only few cases. As a matter of fact, women in Humla, Rukum (West), Jajarkot, Jumla, Dolpa, Mugu and Kalikot, like in other far-flung villages, are succumbing to such complications with troubling frequency.
To address the problem, Karnali Province introduced ‘air lifting’ service last year. It rescued 15 pregnant women and new mothers last year. With budget constraint, however, the Provincial government has not been able to do much about this program. The federal government has also launched the helicopter rescue program for pregnant or new mothers facing complications in remote districts of Nepal. The President’s Women Uplift Program, executed by Ministry of Women, Children and Senior Citizens, has saved a number of mothers—as many as 39—according to the recent report, but this program has not been able to address the problems facing pregnant women of all districts. Besides, such measures offer only short-term solutions, while missing the larger picture of Nepal’s health.
The truth of the matter is women in rural districts lose lives to preventable complications because there are no well-equipped health facilities there. Many health facilities have to do without doctors. In lack of doctors, health assistants and auxiliary mid nurses (AMNs) have to provide services. As reports from various parts of the country show, health facilities in rural places lack basic medicines and therefore people have to descend down to the cities in the plains from the hills for basic treatment. When it comes to Karnali, it is also necessary to raise awareness about hospital births since many women there prefer deliveries at their homes. Maternal services are provided in around 250 health facilities in Karnali. But these services are not technically equipped to save lives of pregnant women. When it comes to saving lives of pregnant women, the state should not leave any stone unturned. Short-term measures do not help. The government needs to fix the root problems of health facilities: Lack of well-equipped and well-managed state hospitals in Nepal’s remote areas and unavailability of trained doctors. That people have to lose lives due to lack of timely treatment even in this age is making mockery of the socialist goal the constitution of Nepal has envisaged. This should not be allowed to become the defining feature of Nepali republic. The first thing the government should do is send as many doctors as possible to remote districts. The government should not hesitate to enforce new policies to encourage doctors to serve in remote areas.