A 7.8-magnitude earthquake shook Nepal on April 25, 2015. Some 70% of prenatal clinics that had been providing crucial services to pregnant women were severely damaged in the Nepalese districts hardest hit by the quake. Now with monsoon rains slowing rebuilding and relief efforts, fears are mounting of a reverse in the impoverished Himalayan nation's recent progress in reducing maternal and neonatal deaths.
More than 30,000 women have given birth in the worst-hit districts since the quake. But many women, living in remote hilly villages, have been forced to brave quake-damaged trails that face the risk of landslides from aftershocks and rains in order to reach medical help. Aid agencies like UNICEF mobilized quickly to organize delivery of waterproof tents and essential supplies including antibiotics, gloves and surgical instruments.
Health experts revealed that many babies have been stillborn while premature deliveries tripled in the worst-hit districts. The shock and trauma triggered by the disaster led to a surge in medical complications experienced by pregnant women.
Asha Pun, maternal and newborn health specialist at UNICEF, said, "In normal circumstances we expect that about 5% of pregnancies would turn out to be premature deliveries but after the earthquake we saw it was about 15%."
Nepal had been credited with slashing its maternal mortality rate, by a staggering 55% between 2000 and 2013, from 430 deaths per 100,000 live births to 190 deaths. Health workers still fear that the disaster will wipe out years of hard work invested in improving access to healthcare.