Improving emergency obstetric care in a context of very high maternal mortality: The Nepal Safer Motherhood project 1997-2004

A D Rath, I Basnett, M Cole, H N Subedi, D Thomas, S F Murray

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17 Citations (Scopus)


The Nepal Safer Motherhood Project (1997-2004) was One of the first large-scale projects to focus on access to emergency obstetric care, covering 15% of Nepal. Six factors for success in reducing maternal mortality are applied to assess the project. There was on average annual increase of 1.3% per year in met need for emergency obstetric care, reaching 14% in public sector facilities in project districts in 2004. Infrastructure and equipment to achieve comprehensive-level care were improved, but sustained functioning, availability of a skilled doctor, blood and anaesthesia, were greater challenges. In three districts, 70% of emergency procedures were managed by nurses, with additional training. However, major shortages of skilled professionals remain. Enhancement of the weak referral system was beyond the projects scope. Instead, it worked to increase information in the community about danger signs in pregnancy and delivery and taking prompt action. A key initiative was establishing community emergency funds for obstetric complications. Efforts were also made to develop a positive shift in attitudes towards patient-centred care. Supply-side interventions are insufficient for reducing the high level of maternal deaths. In Nepal, this situation is complicated by social norms that leave women undervalued and disempowered, especially those from lower castes and certain ethnic groups, a pattern reflected in use of maternity services. Programming also needs to address the social environment. (c) 2007 Reproductive Health Matters. All rights reserved
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)72 - 80
Number of pages9
Issue number30
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2007


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