In a country beset by numerous challenges, the health care services under the auspices of the government is limited partly due to inadequate resources and partly because of the traditional approach of the populace. The scene is slowly changing with meaningful government responses in the form of expanded health services and incentives. Among all the aspects of health care, the status of maternity services particularly reflects the health of the nation. This consideration has prompted the government to embark on an ambitious project, from Wednesday (Jan.14), to deliver free maternity services through its district hospitals, health posts and health centres. The thrust is also to achieve the Millennium Development Goal on maternal mortality rate, from the present rate of 281 per 100,000 live births to 213 by 2015. More than meeting the goal, the necessity of protecting the lives of the pregnant women has received the prime focus. The incentive offered through the free delivery service scheme is expected to see more pregnant women seeking the health services of the government hospitals and health posts and centres for safe childbirth. This makes sense when data reveals that less than 20 per cent of the deliveries in the country take place in government designated healthcare facilities.
To provide free maternity services across the country, the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) has earmarked Rs. 390 million and another Rs. 170 million as transport costs to pregnant women, while 10,000 people have been given training on safe maternity services. Moreover, the district hospitals and health posts will also be provided with Rs. 1,000 for general maternity services, Rs. 3,000 for basic emergency obstetric service and Rs. 5,000 for complicated surgery in line with giving free service to pregnant women. This means that the hospitals and health posts will have additional funds to offer the maternity services which in turn will not put a strain on their existing resources. Moreover, it has been stated that pregnant women will be provided 40 types of medicines free of cost at all district hospitals and health posts. For a massive project that will directly benefit the society, the Department for International Development (DFID) of the United Kingdom will be providing $4.3 million for free maternity services. The helpful attitude of friends of Nepal has to be praised.
The overall context for a healthy population has seen the Health Ministry launching the free maternity services. This will not only encourage pregnant women to visit hospitals to avail free delivery facilities and medicines but also result in the infant mortality rate coming down in line with the goal for 2015. It is a huge investment being made to ensure that maternal mortality comes down. As a result, the infant mortality rate will also follow suit. The launching of the free maternity services is also a race to save 22,000 women who may die at childbirth and 25,000 infants who may also succumb. It is a cause backed with financial and human resources. The only concern is as to the implementation aspect that must stick to the principles of dedication and sincerity.