EDITORIAL: Keep promise

If the government wants to make this programme successful it should be able to provide the promised incentives to all those qualified without any delay

New mothers of various VDCs in the backward district of Humla in the Far-Western region have yet to receive warm clothing for them and their babies. They are supposed to be provided with a bag of warm clothes containing a gown for the mothers and caps and warm inner clothes for the newborns since December. These facilities would be provided in the Himali districts which get very cold during winter as announced by the government. Lack of warm clothing exacerbates the suffering of the victims causing serious health problems, including deaths, as a result of extreme cold.   A new mother is provided with Rs. 1,500 and Rs. 400 to pregnant women. The pregnant would have to visit the health providing facilities four consecutive times to get the allowance. These were done to encourage the rural women to visit the health services providing centers to give safe birth.

New mothers here have been deprived of these facilities as the District Health Office has failed to dispatch them. This clearly shows how lethargically various government agencies operate in this country. Although Nepal boasts of reaching some of the Millennium Development Goals, with a life expectancy of 71 years, the second highest after Sri Lanka in South Asia, there is nothing to gloat over as people particularly in the rural areas of the Far-West are deprived of even the basic health facilities and die earlier. The infant and mother mortality rates have been reduced significantly -- maternal mortality rate down to 281 per hundred thousand. But Nepal is still a country with a high maternal mortality rate. With the programme of attractive birthing incentives, it is expected that the maternal mortality rate will come down to 134 per hundred thousand. One of the reasons for this is the rugged terrain of this region with access to few roads making it difficult to transport the life-saving goods including food, medicines and clothes. A lot remains to be done to ensure that the babies are preferably born safely at health centers and both the babies and mothers stay healthy.

The failure to provide the promised incentives to all pregnant women and new mothers in the districts designated for such incentives shows that the government is not good at implementing its own programmes effectively. The objectives with which the incentives were announced are noble: to minimize maternal and infant mortality rates. In villages, people have a tendency to give birth at home rather than visit health centres, but this is a highly risky game. With inept birthing assistants, the lives of both mother and infant are always at high risk, compounded by the lack of various medical services at home but which are available at health centres. When birthing complications arise, there is a high probability of both mother and infant dying, or at least bear permanent health problems or physical defects even if they survive. The free birthing services and extra incentives were introduced to achieve specific objectives. Therefore, if the government wants to make this programme successful by achieving its objectives, it should be able to provide the promised incentives to all those qualified without any delay.

Zoological garden

If everything goes according to plan the Jawalakhel-based Central Zoo will be shifted to a new zoo and zoological garden at Surya Binayak, Bhaktapur within two years. The Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation has already decided to provide around 245 hectares of land owned by seven community forests. Under the first phase big animals and endangered ones will be shifted there from the old one spread only at six ahectares of land surrounding the densely populated area not suitable for wildlife.

The new zoo will be of international standard providing natural habitat to a variety of wildlife. It will have animal-friendly modern facilities such as zoological garden, recreational centre and animal care centre. Once it comes into operation, the zoological garden will also be an educational and recreational centre for students and visitors generating enough revenue to the zoo for its smooth operation. The proposed area is densely afforested and it will provide natural environment for all kinds of wild animals. But it must be developed in a manner that local communities who are protecting the forest of late extend full cooperation and they also get dividend from the project.