Academic journal article Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Nepal's Childhood Mortality Falls by Half as Vaccinations Rise Tenfold. (News)

Academic journal article Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Nepal's Childhood Mortality Falls by Half as Vaccinations Rise Tenfold. (News)

Article excerpt

Nepal, one of Asia's poorest countries, has been taking hard knocks in recent years, struggling with a Maoist rebellion since 1996, and facing the appalling slaughter of many of its royal family by one of its own members in June 2001. But a delighted Sarat Singh Bhandari, Nepalese Minister for Health, recently reported significant health improvements in the country.

From 1980 to 2000 mortality in under five-year-olds fell by 55% (to 110 deaths of children 0-4 years old per 1000 births), said Bhandari; infant mortality has dropped by 33% (to 76 deaths per 1000 births) and fertility by 26% (to 4.7 children per woman).

The population still managed to more than double--from 15 million in 1980 to 37 million in 2000--but it would have risen further if it had not been for a steady rise in the use of modern contraceptives by married women, from just 7% of such women in 1981 to 35% in 2001. The drop in child mortality is linked to the massive increase in the proportion of 12-23 month-old Nepalese children fully immunized against diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus: a rise to 80% in the year 2000, from just 8% 20 years ago.

These were some of the encouraging conclusions of Nepal's new Demographic and Health Survey, said the minister, speaking at the launching ceremony for the Survey in Kathmandhu. Rebecca Rohrer, Director of the Health and Family Planning Unit of USAID, which funded the survey, said that Nepal has led the way in South Asia in improving demographic and health indicators in the last five years.

Some professionals working in the health sector, however, are not so confident, at a time when all growth indicators in Nepal are pointing downward. "I feel the health service delivery system has worsened in the last five years," claims Badri Raj Pandey, a senior health professional who has worked as the medical superintendent of Bir Hospital, the largest hospital in Nepal, and Chairman of Family Planning Association of Nepal (FPAN). …

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