Lives of 18,000 Nepali babies & mothers at risk unless immediate action taken: UNICEF

Nepalese new-born babies
UNICEF staff have been visiting earthquake-affected communities in remote areas of Nepal, including this community in Nuwakot District which experienced landslides burying their homes.

16 May 2015 3:48 PM AEST: The lives of around 12 babies that are born every hour in Nepal’s earthquake-devastated districts and their mothers are at risk, the UN has warned.

UNICEF said today that the babies are mostly born without even the basic healthcare facilities across 14 of the worst-hit districts.

Nepal was hit by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake on April 25 which was followed by a 7.3 magnitude on May 12. The death toll from the killer-temblors has risen beyond 8500.

“Following massive damage to maternity facilities the children’s organisation has warned that over the next month the lives of almost 18,000 babies and mothers could be at risk, unless urgent action is taken to restore key healthcare systems,” UNICEF’s press release stated.

The global body claims 70 percent of the birthing centres in the badly affected districts have either been destroyed or damaged. The figure goes up to 90 percent in some areas, it said.

“The number of mothers giving birth outside hospitals and birthing centres is feared to have gone up by more than a third in the worst-affected areas of the country since last month’s earthquake hit,” said Tomoo Hozumi, UNICEF’s Representative in Nepal.

Mr Hozumi said he was ‘extremely concerned for the well-being of the newborns’ because the ‘first days of life are the most critical and dangerous for a child’.

He also expressed serious concerns for the pregnant women who needed to ensure safe delivery of their babies but which becomes a serious challenge given the completely uprooted healthcare infrastructure of the impoverished nation.

The UNICEF Nepal’s head further said the pregnant women are in ‘risks of premature birth, miscarriage and complications’ amid the post-catastrophic confusion.

UNICEF is on the ground with the victims and has been working ‘around the clock’ with its partners on the following initiatives:

  1. Setting up dozens of emergency medical tents, including maternity tents, across affected areas
  2. Working to establish 22 shelter homes in the worst-hit districts, to care for mothers and newborns when they are discharged from hospital
  3. Establishing mobile clinics to deliver emergency primary healthcare for vulnerable mothers and children, mainly in areas where health facilities have been damaged or destroyed.
  4. Delivering scores of clean delivery kits to Sindhupalchowk and Gorkha districts, hundreds of treated bed nets to Nuwakot district, and hundreds of blankets to Lalitpur, Ramechhap, Dhading, Sindhupalchowk and Makwanpur districts, and the Maternity Hospital in Kathmandu.
  5. Distributing emergency health kits – containing key medicines – to treat up to 300,000 people in 10 districts.
  6. Distributing hundreds of sets of baby clothes in Sindhupalchok and Gorkha districts.

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