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26 Mar 21

Start Strong: Maternal Healthcare

Mountainous areas of Nepal offer many challenges for the delivery of primary healthcareMany villages are very difficult to reach and are not accessible by road. These areas are often affected by natural disasters, such as earthquakes, landslides and flooding due to monsoon rains. Weak healthcare structures and operational challenges in remote areas has meant that women receive limited training and support throughout their pregnancy. Support for mothers in the Start Strong project location is particularly low, with nearly 50% not receiving Antenatal Care visits. Throughout these remote regions, opportunities to influence a child’s future health are often missed. 

This lack of access to maternal healthcare impacts women across all stages of the antenatal, birth and postnatal periods with opportunities to influence a child’s future health often being missed. In Bichhaya, 91.3% of women are not exclusively breastfeeding for six months and 69% of women are unaware of the benefits or how to produce super flour. In Nepal, healthcare structures and services are underfunded, with health funding only accounting for 4.5% of General Government Expenditure, compared to 78% in the UK. Operational challenges in remote areas makes it difficult to ensure that health centres are well staffed and have the necessary equipment and resources to safely treat emergency patients. In general, there is a lack of knowledge surrounding maternal and child healthcare at all levels with limited provision of health education. Furthermore, within the remote communities in the Far West of Nepal, a patriarchal society coupled with long-held social and cultural norms, often impact health seeking behaviours and support for women, with Nepal currently ranking 115th out of 188 countries for gender inequality. 

Access to maternal healthcare is crucial for mothers in giving their children a strong start in life. In the Far West of Nepal, vulnerable women living in remote communities will be given the opportunity to access support and care that would ensure that they, and their baby, is kept safe and healthy. The Start Strong Project will provide training for Female Community Health Volunteers (FCHVs) on the ‘Golden 1,000 Days’ and how to identify and respond to children suffering from malnutrition. The project will aim to build relationships of trust between healthcare workers and local women, whilst changing behaviours and challenging inaccurate information around stigmatised issues such as maternal health, reproductive health and disability. Training will also be provided on how to identify and treat neonatal illnesses, ensuring that every child, regardless of where they are born, has an equal opportunity to a healthy and happy life. 

Babita lives in one of the poorest regions in the Far West of Nepal. When her labour didn’t go to plan, she required support from PHASE health staff. Nine hours into her labour, Babita could tell that something was wrong, so travelled to her local PHASE Health Post. Quickly, staff realised that her baby was in a breech position, meaning that a quick delivery was crucial if Babita and her baby were to remain safe. With support from PHASE health workers, Babita was able to deliver a happy and healthy baby, but not all women are as fortunate. 

With access to child and maternal health services and training for mothers, the Start Strong Project will ensure that every child, regardless of where they are born, is happy and healthy. Give before 25th June 2021 and the UK Government will match all public donations. Let’s help more mothers like Babita to give their children a strong start to life. 

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