KATHMANDU, JUN 17 – Several development goals in the health sector are likely to be derailed and can have long term social and economic impact in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake on April 25 and its aftershocks, the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) has said.
The MoHP in its Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) states that basic health services including programmes for safe motherhood, child and neonatal health will be affected in the ‘long term’.
The government spends over two billion each year on safe motherhood and child health programmes, which are part of the global Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Since government data suggests that there has been significant improvement in averting deaths of expecting mothers (before, during and after child birth) and in saving the lives of children below the age of five, the country has been twice conferred with global awards.
The MoHP estimates that direct effect of earthquake will be seen in around 30,000 deliveries and their new born children. Official figures suggest that Nepal had already achieved the MDG goal on Maternal Mortality Ratio which stood at 190 deaths of pregnant women among 100,000. The country was mandated to attain the target of reducing deaths of mother to 213 by 2015.
The collapse of over 135 birthing centres and obstetric care facilities in rural parts of the country will devoid health workers of the required infrastructure to provide smooth services. The fear of aftershocks has also left many expecting mothers to choose delivery at their homes.
“The negative effect on health is also expected due to the effect on nutritional status of the vulnerable population in affected districts,” the PDNA report submitted by the MoHP states.
Mahendra Shrestha, chief of Policy, Planning and International Cooperation Division said apart from the goals of MDGs that focuses on health of mothers and children, HIV/Aids, tuberculosis and malaria, adverse effects are seen on non-communicable diseases and other people with chronic conditions as well. “For a long time the whole focus was on people affected by earthquake. People with chronic conditions requiring follow-up have not had required services. Repercussions will slowly be seen,” said Shrestha.
The PDNA report says that severely injured people, those with disabilities, children, elderly and adolescents are also vulnerable to health risks post disaster, requiring special attention in the recovery plan.
Experts suggest that public health campaigns including massive immunisation, resuming health services and deployment of Female Community Health Volunteers to figure out the conditions on the ground will greatly assist the recovery plan.
On the recovery and reconstruction front, the MoHP has sought Rs 14.69 billion from which Rs 195 million is demanded immediately for resuming services in the affected areas particularly for building temporary structures and renting houses for smooth operation of services.