Bajura women compelled to give birth in cowsheds

Bajura, December 17

Samundra Kathyat at Wai VDC, Bajura gave birth in a cowshed a week ago, although Wai Health Post is only a 15 minute walk from her house.

The health post had turned her away because they did not have the resources to deliver a baby.

Samundra’s family believe in the locally accepted superstition that delivering babies at home would incite the wrath of the gods, and the new mother and child must be kept apart for a month from home because they are ‘impure’.

She gave birth with the help of local women, who used a sickle to sever the umbilical cord.

“I know that I have to go to health facilities for safe delivery, but the health post workers turned me away. To make matter worse, my family would not allow me to deliver the baby at home,” she said.

“No woman in the VDC has delivered her baby at health posts,” said Auxiliary Nursing Mid-wife Kaushilya Karki. She added that they do not have the permission to run delivery services.

The government has mandated delivery services, and pregnancy tests in health posts, and offers certain cash amount to new mothers as allowance. “But women in Wai VDC have no access to any of these government-given amenities,” said Tara Giri, a local. Pregnant women at Jukot, Jagannath, Kotila, and Bichhayan VDCs of the district give birth at home, or at cow sheds.

Meanwhile, In-charge Narendra Budha at Wai Health Post said that his office has been taking initiatives to establish delivery services in the health post. He further added that the service could not be offered due to the lack of physical infrastructures in the health post.

Information officer Ram Chandra Yadav at DOH, Bajura said that the office will not give permission to local health posts until they have the human resources and physical infrastructure required.

ANM Chitra Kumari Tamang at Practical Help Achieving Self Empowerment (PHASE) Nepal - an organisation working in rural remote communities - said that the custom of delivering babies in cowsheds have contributed to increasing infant and maternity mortality rates.