Nepal’s maternal health services were fragile before the pandemic. The country has no midwives so women give birth with the help of auxiliary nurses like Urmila, or skilled birth attendants.
But since the start of the pandemic, maternal deaths have soared. According to the department of health, 258 women died as a result of pregnancy or childbirth between March 2020 and June 2021. Thirty-three women had Covid-19. In the year before March 2020, the country recorded 51 maternal deaths.
Neonatal deaths have also increased, from 13 deaths per 1,000 live births before lockdown to 40 deaths per 1,000 live births during the first lockdown.
Health workers fear that the second wave of infections could see maternal death rates reach levels not seen in the country this century.
“Normally, around 45 women come for the antenatal checkups in our health post but since April more than 90% of pregnant women are not in contact,” said Acharya. “We tried to reach out to them via phone but we barely spoke to 10 women.”
Read more of Rojita Adhikari report from Kathmandu here: Nepal sees huge rise in maternal deaths as Covid keeps women at home