Government provides safe abortion within home services
Kathmandu: The government continues to render safe abortion services and counselling on family planning within home for the needy.
The service is primarily targeted to those who have barriers to access essential health care services and are unable to visit health facilities to seek services due to several reasons. The service was launched during the COVID-19 crisis. Earlier, the Ministry of Health and Population had issued the ‘COVID-19 Pandemic: Interim Directives for Reproductive, Maternity, Neonatal, and Child Health Services, 2077 BS’ and it was aimed at ensuring people’s access to reproductive, maternity, neonatal and child health services during the pandemic.
As per the directives, the service was launched considering the indigent, disabled, marginalized, sexual and gender minorities and HIV infected facing barriers for access to basic healthcare services. Health workers make home visits to render services being based on demands put forth through the ‘free helpline 1660014500 telephone service’ operated by the Ministry and the Family Planning Association of Nepal (FPAN). As the FPAN claims, the service has been a milestone in enhancing people’s access to the means of family planning and continuing the safe abortion services even in the grave crisis posed by COVID-19. Family Welfare Division, Family Planning and Reproductive Health Branch Chief, Kabita Aryal, said, “Though family planning and reproductive health services were affected in the first and second phase of coronavirus pandemic, the services are now in operation.” The ratio of use of family planning service decreased to 37 from 39 during pandemic, shared Aryal.
According to the World Health Organisation, 10 per cent infant and 30 per cent maternal mortality rate would be reduced if two-year gap between the first and second child is maintained by using family planning service. Expansion of access to family planning services is considered mandatory to reduce maternal and child mortality rate. The Nepal Health Sector Strategy (2016-2021) has set a goal to lower maternal mortality rate to 125 per 100,000 live births while the Sustainable Development Goals has set a target to reduce the infant mortality rate and child mortality rate below five years to 12 and 20 per 1,000 live births respectively. The government has challenged to achieve these goals. The Safe Abortion Service Guidelines had given permission to trained health workers for the first time to provide safe abortion service.
Safe abortion service is being provided free of cost at enlisted government health institutions through medicine and clinical medium since 2073 BS. This authority was given to health workers as per the provisions of Safe Maternal and Reproductive Health Rights Act 2075, Regulations 2077. The Ministry recently has brought Safe Abortion Service Programme Management and Procedure Guidelines -2078 into implementation.
So far 530 health institutions have been enlisted for providing safe abortion services and more than 3,000 trained medical staff working in these institutions are providing this service. The Division said 85 thousand 492 women benefited from this service in the last fiscal year. Among the beneficiaries, 8,223 were below the age of 20 years. Similarly, 22 thousand 769 women took the service during the lockdown period and 2,221 of them were below 20 years.