Speaking at a celebration program to mark the 113th International Women's Day organized by the Ministry of Women, Children, and Senior Citizens, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal vowed to make the early diagnosis and treatment of uterus and breast cancers free throughout the country through a special program. PM Dahal also promised to introduce several plans aimed at ensuring women’s reproductive and maternal health.
During the program, PM Dahal insisted on establishing infertility treatment facilities and newborn care centers at the ward level and early detection and treatment services for uterus and breast cancer.
Services regarding uterus and breast cancer will be extended free of charge through a special program in all seven provinces, Dahal promised.
Additionally, Dahal announced a country-wide free HPV vaccination program for girls between 9-13 years of age to prevent cervical cancer.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the cause of cervical cancer which is the second most common cancer in developing countries and a major cause of death among Nepali women.
Fortunately, the Ministry of Health and Population has successfully procured HPV vaccines, which have been a subject of widespread discussion in recent years.
Although mentioned in the government's policy and program for FY 2021/22, the budget allocation for this initiative was not sufficient. Nonetheless, the positive development is that the planning stage has been completed, and the vaccines are ready to be administered.
Similarly, a nutrition program will be conducted to end the anemia seen in about 34% of women of reproductive age.
Although PM Dahal has announced the launch of several programs in the coming days to reduce ongoing health hazards faced by women, their execution is doubtful.
In 1990, the maternal mortality ratio (MMR) was as high as 901 deaths, which reduced to 258 in 2015, a reduction of 71% over the 25-year period – still a major concern. The government aims to reduce the MMR to at least 70 by 2030. For this, overall health infrastructures need strong public spending.
A while ago Setopati highlighted the dearth of nurses to look after patients in the country’s oldest hospital and one of the largest hospitals in Koshi Province with — with one nurse assigned to over 40 patients. The Kathmandu Post also reported on the poor infrastructure of the hospital despite its upgradation to a 250-bed facility from 100 beds.
Earlier, a coverage by RSS Nepal reported that some Sutkeris from Simkot Rural Municipality – Humla were deprived of the nutrition allowance that the Karnali Province government had announced. The Karnali Province government had earlier announced to provide a Rs 2,000 allowance to each mother for delivery at a health center but failed to fulfill its commitment citing the unavailability of budget.
Only 19% of pregnant women in Raksirang, Makwanpur, a rural municipality with a strong Chepang community base, give birth at the birthing center, reported Kantipur. The present state of maternal care, coupled with the level of knowledge regarding the significance of birthing centers among the populace, is a cause for concern.
In addition, the infrastructure in place is not reliable, and the availability of health posts and services and health service providers in rural areas is too inadequate, for instance, in the case of Bajura.
The Constitution of Nepal in Article 38 explicitly enshrines the rights of women, including safe motherhood and reproductive health. A separate special law has also been enacted — namely ‘Right to safe motherhood and reproductive health Act, 2018’ — to ensure effective implementation of this provision.
The Act guarantees the right to safe abortion, obstetric leave, family planning service, obstetric care and service, and reproductive health among others.
During the program, the PM also insisted on providing essential aid including rescue and relief, free legal aid, psychological counseling from experts, and livelihood programs to women victims of violence and conflict.
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