EDITORIAL: Key findings

Happy to note is that overall health status of women and children in the country is steadily improving as per the NDHS data

The 2016 Nepal Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) was launched in the capital Tuesday. This is the fifth Demographic and Health Survey in Nepal since 1996. A sample of 12,862 women from various parts of the country aged between 15- 49 in 11,040 surveyed households and 4,063 men aged between 15-49 in half of the surveyed households were interviewed. There was an encouraging response with 98 per cent of women and 96 per cent of men responding. These data are from the national level, for both urban and rural areas, three ecological zones, 5 development regions and the seven provinces. The findings of the estimates provided the up to date data of fertility levels and preferences, marriage, sexual activity, nutrition, breast-feeding being practiced, anaemia, childhood and maternal mortality, maternal and child health, HIV/AIDS and various sexually transmitted diseases.

Many of the indicators could be taken as positive. There has been a remarkable progress over two decades in maternal and child health. The findings also show that more children are surviving early childhood now with a sharp decline in under-five mortality from 118 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1996 to 39 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2016. It is estimated that the nutrition status of children is getting better by comparing the height and weight. Similarly, 27 per cent of the children were found to be underweight in 2016 while the rate for 1996 was 42 per cent. Because of poor nutrition over half, 57 per cent of the children, were stunted in 1996 in comparison to 36 percent in 2016. Women now have an average of 2.3 children and the fertility has witnessed a decline from 4.6 children per woman. It is interesting to note that the fertility is the lowest in Province-3 (1.8 children per woman) and the highest in Province-2 (3 children per woman). The use of family planning devises has doubled amongst married females from 29 per cent in 1996 to 53 per cent in 2016.

It is also found that eight out of 10 women (84 per cent) aged between 15 to 49 have access to antenatal care from skilled health personnel including doctors, nurse and auxiliary nurse midwifes. The NDHS data shows 57 per cent of the births take place in health facilities. In 1996 only eight percent of the birth took place in such facilities. Even now 41 per cent of the deliveries take place at home which is risky for both the mother and the newborns. Thanks to the women health volunteers basic vaccination that has been provided to 78 per cent of the children. They are aged 12 to 23 months. Still a matter of concern is that the vaccination coverage has declined from 2011 when 87 per cent of the children were vaccinated. Education of women is also related with the vaccination coverage.  Happy to note is that overall health status of women and children in the country is steadily improving as per the NDHS data. This data could help while formulating the health policy and where to provide additional resources. Still there is much to be done although overall health situation in the country seems to have improved somewhat.

Emission level

Many organizations working for protection of the environment have called on motorcyclists to regularly service their vehicles to reduce emission level in the city areas. They have launched various awareness programmes in collaboration with the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD). A recent study conducted by ICIMOD in Kathmandu found that at least two percent motorcycles plying on the streets are responsible for up to 50 percent of directly emitted particulate matter (PM 2.5). The study found that regular servicing of the two-wheelers at local outlets can substantially contribute to reducing PM 2.5 emissions.

Repairing and servicing vehicles on time may definitely help reduce emission level. Bigger vehicles like buses and cargo trucks which burn diesel are the major contributors to the rise of emission in the air. The only way to keep the environment clean and maintain air quality at WHO level in city areas is to shift towards electric vehicles which emit no smog. It is high time the government encouraged people to use electric vehicles by giving lucrative incentives. Isolated efforts may not yield any desired results. A long term solution must be sought to tackle the rising level of emission.