In March 2020, Nepal went into nationwide lockdown for the first time to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus. As we were home, we learned there is an almost 200 percent increase in maternal mortality rate since the lockdown. Some of the reasons include prohibitions on public movement and all non-essential transport, and lack of access to health care services as hospitals focused on COVID-19.
Many health facilities stopped providing services due to fears of virus transmission and a halt in transportation forced women to give birth at home. The health officials projected the situation could be worse in remote places. We wanted to extend support to health institutions and with generous support from our long-standing partner- Equality Fund, we created the COVID-19 response fund. Under this project, we established contact with the health division of Chautara Sangachowkgadi municipality in Sindhupalchowk. Since 2020, we are implementing some of our education projects in the same municipality so we thought to concentrate on Chautara. Further, we were familiar with how difficult life is for the women in the villages within the municipality.
In early September 2020, we made visits to different health institutions, and based on the need we chose five health institutions as we had limited resources. The partnership enabled us to support basic health materials, medicines, and equipment to improve health services and facilities. It was disheartening to see the health posts in remote and rural villages lack basic equipment such as baby weighing machines, bed, thermometer, stretcher, wheelchairs and medicines such as eye drop, calcium, vitamins, and painkillers. By February 2021, we were able to support these health posts with all the materials they needed so that they could cater to people in general but especially pregnant and new mothers. Upon receiving the supplies, the health post in-charge had hoped that women would visit the health posts for health services. We are still following up with the health posts and hoping to continue our support as we seek more financial support.