Here's the link of the article I've published in The Kathmandu Post.

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We live in a world where about 1,000 women in developing countries die every day due to complications related to pregnancy. These deaths are preventable if reproductive health services are ramped up, especially for the marginalised groups. In addition, some 215 million women in developing countries, who want to plan and space their births, do not have access to modern contraceptions. Therefore, the global theme of this year’s World Population Day—”Universal Access to Reproductive Health Services”—is the most relevant to mark the day.

According to Nepal Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) 2011, 54 children (under five years) of every 1,000 babies, including 33 neonatal babies, die in Nepal but the target of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to be achieved by 2015 is 35.7. Likewise, a recent USAID survey report shows that 229 of every 100,000 pregnant women die in Nepal every year. But the MDG for maternal death targets to achieve is 162.

In Nepal’s context, the maternal mortality rate is high due to the weak health system with limited access to emergency obstetric care, skilled attendance and the overall poor status of women. The neonatal mortality rate is also unacceptably high due to lack of community awareness on appropriate care of newborn babies. This is the reason why the Government of Nepal is giving high priority to maternal and child health care programmes.

In addition, the preliminary report of NDHS 2011 puts the use of contraceptive at 43.2 percent against the MDG target of 67 percent, which is a decrease by one percent as compared to NDHS 2006. The main reason behind the decrease of contraceptive use is an increasing number of migrating people.

The abortion rate among the young girls married before they reach 18 is still high. Early child marriage, which results in immature pregnancy, is a pertinent issue in Nepal. The recently held 65th World Health Assembly of the WHO focused on the prevention of too-early pregnancies and poor reproductive outcomes among adolescents in developing countries.

Keeping this in mind, the global theme of World Population Day 2012 has provided us a good opportunity to address a number of key issues that affect most marginalised women, children and families in Nepal. Hence, the theme must be translated into action.

Universal access to contraception education and materials, health and reproductive rights as well as sex counselling is a must. In addition, access to a range of safe and effective contraceptive methods in health facilities and through social marketing and local outreach is necessary if the right to family planning is to be ensured. Increased access to skilled birth attendants during delivery and higher levels of mothers’ education and nutrition standards reduce many of the common causes of neonatal mortality. An adequate investment in terms of training, oversight and incentives for midwives should be provided in conjunction with improved access to and monitoring of rural health posts, and curbing unsafe home-based birthing practices to improve maternal and child health.

As we near the 2015 target for achieving the MDGs, there is an urgent need to ensure the rights of women. Together we can work for shaping up the future of young people, advancing rights for girls and women, and preserving the natural resources we all depend upon. Protecting reproductive health and rights is fundamental to our collective future and sustainable development. By more actively engaging women and young people, we can build a better future for all generations. When women and adolescent girls have rights and opportunities, their families, communities and nations prosper.

An increase in awareness on and access to reproductive health services along with the strengthening of health facilities and capacity of the health workers, mainly targeting young women and maternal health care, is a must to materialise this year’s global theme of the Population Day that would significantly contribute towards achieving the MDGs.

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