Childhood Malnutrition in NepalChild malnutrition in Nepal, a relatively small nation in Asia, has been a persistent issue. The lack of food throughout the country has significantly contributed to illness and death. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the situation has worsened. Though there have been multiple failed government attempts to reconcile the food supply, Nepal is slowly finding its way back to proper nutrition for children with the help of organizations such as UNICEF.

Child Malnutrition in Nepal

According to the United Nations World Food Programme, Nepal ranks as the 148th most impoverished country in the world out of 189 countries. It continues to struggle with low general well-being because of civil unrest, a difficult geographical landscape and poor infrastructure. A combination of these factors has also impacted food availability. Food that is available often lacks the nutrients necessary for children to maintain proper health and growth. As a result of malnutrition, children battle stunted physical and mental growth, severe weight loss and compromised immune systems.

In addition to poor nutrition, many children are also exposed to contaminated water, which can lead to chronic diseases. According to the Nepali Times, a recent Johns Hopkins University survey showed that severe malnutrition impacting children younger than 5 could cause 4,000 childhood deaths a year due to insufficient food from lack of income caused by the pandemic. A quarter of Nepal’s population already lives under the poverty line. The pandemic has pushed more families closer to impoverishment.

The Solution

Due to multiple failed government efforts to help assist families, it is clear that part of the issue lies in the poorly structured national, provincial and local governments. Though the government has made efforts to tackle malnutrition in Nepal, including the Multi-Sectoral Nutrition Plan that led to major strides against child malnutrition in the past, the issue persists.

To combat child malnutrition in Nepal, UNICEF has partnered with the government of Nepal in order to treat malnourished children with nutrition response and recovery actions. It has also taken the initiative to educate and provide resources for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. Nutrition education aims to raise awareness of the importance of ensuring infants receive essential nutrients.

Furthermore, UNICEF is helping the government of Nepal to strengthen its response to prevent more malnutrition in the country. Nutritional assistance is also provided in the form of micronutrient powder for children and iron folate supplements for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.

The Road Ahead

Though child malnutrition in Nepal has worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is still hope. With help from UNICEF and other humanitarian organizations, Nepal has a chance to address this persistent issue. Moving forward, it is essential that the government and humanitarian organizations continue to prioritize child malnutrition in Nepal.

– Allie Degner
Photo: Flickr

Save the Children Aids Nepal In 2015, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake wreaked havoc in Nepal. The devastation left more than 22,000 people injured and almost 9,000 people dead, with hundreds of thousands of more people facing extreme poverty. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic may prove to be an even more severe humanitarian crisis for the country. With more than 600,000 reported cases as of July 2021, the severity of the pandemic in Nepal is significant. In an effort to improve the country’s dire state and protect vulnerable populations such as children, Save the Children aids Nepal during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Impact of COVID-19 in Nepal

Nepal’s status as a landlocked nation with a medical system closely tied to India has resulted in serious healthcare concerns. Chief among these concerns is a lack of essential medical resources like oxygen tanks and COVID-19 testing kits, both of which are critical in the fight against COVID-19. Nepal normally obtains these supplies through India, however, the severe COVID-19 outbreak in India means India has minimal resources to spare.

Maggie Doyne is the co-founder and CEO of a nonprofit in Nepal, BlinkNow. Doyne, tells CNN Canada that “All of our medicines, all of our oxygen tanks, our ambulances, our food supply relies on India. So, you really can’t have a landlocked Himalayan country so reliant on another country that’s really struggling.” The nonprofit operates a school and a children’s home, among other facilities, in Nepal. It has also been one of the groups attempting to provide aid on the ground. In direct response to the country’s surge in cases, BlinkNow increased emergency food bank supplies available for vulnerable families and people out of work.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Children in Nepal

One particularly vulnerable population in Nepal is children. The Human Rights Watch and two partnering organizations released a report in May 2021 examining how COVID-19 impacts children. After speaking with 25 working children in Nepal, nearly all of them agreed that COVID-19 has negatively impacted their family’s financial stability. The children interviewed ranged from 8 to 16 years old.

The children worked jobs in construction, carpentry, mechanics and more, in an attempt to financially support their families. Many of the children work long hours, sometimes totaling 12 hours per day, which causes them pain, dizziness and fatigue. The use of child labor has increased in the country since the pandemic has forced lockdowns and school closures. Even as schools reopen, many children remain working to help supplement their parent’s income.

Save the Children Aids Nepal

Save the Children is taking action in Nepal to minimize COVID-19’s impact on children. The global nonprofit is dedicated to preventing child suffering, with efforts ranging from malnutrition prevention to emergency response measures. The nonprofit recently expressed concerns about the impact of COVID-19 on children in Nepal. School shutdowns hold back Nepalese children educationally and socially.

Not receiving an education hinders the chances of breaking free from poverty, according to Jennifer Syed, the country director for Save the Children in Nepal. Syed says that “The economic impact on households hurts children the most — they’re the ones who suffer the worst malnutrition; it’s the young girls who are forced into child marriage to reduce the financial burden on their family.”

To assist, Save the Children is donating more than 50 oxygen concentrators and 20,000 rapid testing kits. This will help Nepal’s government in the fight against COVID-19. In addition, Save the Children’s website states, “a further 100,000 PRC test kits, 200,000 rapid test kits and 1,000 oxygen concentrators will be given to the Ministry of Health and Population under agreement with the Global Fund.”

The Road Ahead

Save the Children’s efforts are essential to assist a country that has now surpassed India in COVID-19 related deaths per capita. The organization is also supporting Nepalese children through campaigns that promote personal protection measures and offer mental health support. Hopefully, Save the Children’s efforts will inspire aid from others in the near future as Nepal continues to fight the devastating repercussions of COVID-19.

Brett Grega
Photo: Flickr

Nari Bikash SanghPatriarchal values have long dominated Nepali culture. Prevailing attitudes have led to the belief that women in Nepal are inferior to men. As a result, Nepal has long suffered from high gender inequality, which has hampered the country’s overall development. Deeply entrenched views regarding the role of women in society have held back government initiatives, causing progress to be slow. Nari Bikash Sangh, a Nepali NGO, hopes to address gender inequality by directly aiding women in Nepal.

The Status of Women in Nepal

While women’s rights in Nepal have improved over the years, women still face many obstacles in their daily lives. Social values dictate a woman’s every move and women’s needs are often subservient to men’s needs. As a result, most social indicators for women lag behind those of men. The most striking example is Nepal’s literacy rate. As of 2011, the literacy rate for women was 44.5% compared to 71.6% for men, showing the vast disparity between the two genders. This disparity in literacy rates displays the challenges that Nepali women face in achieving upward social mobility as illiteracy inhibits one’s ability to acquire an education and eventually obtain gainful employment.

The patriarchal values that dominate Nepal can explain the disparities in social indicators between men and women in the country. These values mean a woman’s actions and wishes are often subject to the whims of the men in her life. For example, women are often discouraged from pursuing higher education or traveling abroad because of the idea that a woman’s role is to be a homemaker and caregiver.

Nari Bikash Sangh

Several initiatives have been developed with the aim of promoting women’s rights in Nepal. Nari Bikash Sangh (NBS) was founded in 1980 as an NGO whose goal is to help rural, disadvantaged women in Nepal become empowered and aware of their civil rights. With 89 paid staff and more than 2,200 volunteers, NBS reaches more than 100,000 women in Nepal.

Partnering with World Literacy of Canada, NBS started the Women Empowerment Project in 1999. The objective of the program is to encourage the social and economic empowerment of women from certain disadvantaged communities who have been unable to access formal education and employment opportunities. The project raises awareness about violence against women and also provides information on tools and services for victims of violence. Furthermore, this project includes a program to teach marginalized women vocational skills and how to generate income.

NBS also runs developmental programs seeking to promote self-sufficiency among impoverished, rural communities. The Participatory Integrated Poverty Alleviation Program involves developing rural infrastructure as well as improving agricultural standards. The program also consists of initiatives to mobilize disadvantaged people to create self-sufficiency through skills development and income generation programs.

The Road to Gender Equality

Nepal’s deeply entrenched patriarchal values have necessitated a response from ordinary Nepali citizens to ensure gender equality. Nari Bikash Sangh is an example of an organization that seeks to do just that. By raising awareness of women’s rights and initiating self-sufficiency programs, NBS is aiding women in Nepal in a crucial way.

Nikhil Khanal
Photo: Flickr

The Aama ProgramMaternal health is a pressing issue in developing countries as they often lack infrastructure and facilities to adequately care for pregnant women. Women often lack the incentive to use health service centers and choose to rather give birth at home, resulting in high maternal mortality rates. In Nepal, attempts to remedy this issue have led to a cash transfer scheme, which seeks to encourage pregnant women to use medical facilities to give birth by giving them a certain amount of cash to do so. Known as the Aama (or mother) program, the initiative aims to address Nepal’s poor maternal health by making sure that more births are overseen by health professionals.

Overview of Maternal Health in Nepal

Nepal’s healthcare system has long suffered from neglect due to civil strife and political instability. Despite this, it has seen an improvement in maternal health over the past few decades as more government attention has been spent toward this end. The country has received praise from the United Nations for its efforts in reducing its maternal mortality rate by almost three-quarters between the years 1990 and 2015, reflecting the government’s commitment to addressing the issue.

These developments can be attributed in part to improvements in infrastructure and education, as better infrastructure makes health facilities more accessible and higher levels of education raise awareness of medical issues. Additionally, government programs were implemented to assist Nepali women in receiving better healthcare and offset potential costs of doing so. These smaller programs, which were consolidated in the Aama program in 2009, have been an important aspect of Nepal’s attempt to improve maternal health.

The Aama Program

Predecessors to the Aama program were formed to address the issue of maternal health in Nepal. In 2005, the Safe Delivery Incentive Programme (SDIP) was introduced to pay pregnant women to use public health facilities to give birth. These payments vary based on region, reflecting the fact that women in remote parts of the country incur additional costs to access quality healthcare. As a result, women in the Himalayan regions of the country receive 1,500 rupees as these areas have a difficult terrain, and therefore, more costs are involved to reach medical facilities. Those in the middle hill regions receive 1,000 rupees because the terrain is still quite challenging. Those in the southern plains region receive 500 rupees as the land in this area is flat and easy to manage.

In 2009, the program was renamed the Aama program while a provision was added to provide reimbursement to health facilities and any costs associated with delivery services were removed. Finally, the program was further amended in 2012 to provide cash incentives for women to complete at least four antenatal care visits.

Since the inception of the program in 2005, there has been an increase in the usage of medical facilities to give birth. A study from 2005-2009 shows how this increase can be seen throughout every region of the country. Overall, births in medical facilities have almost doubled from 2006 to 2011 with an increase from 20% to 39%.

Room for Improvement

While Nepal has seen progress in increasing the usage of health facilities to give birth, there is still room for improvement. As of 2018, 58% of women still gave birth at home, even those with knowledge of the Aama program. This discrepancy can be explained by social and economic factors. For example, women who choose to give birth at home may do so because they are not comfortable with a hospital setting. Furthermore, women who are economically disadvantaged often receive substandard care. As a result, these women may still choose to give birth at home even after receiving a cash incentive to use a medical facility.

The Aama program is a promising initiative undertaken by the Nepalese government to improve maternal health in the country. It seeks to incentivize pregnant women to use health facilities to give birth rather than giving birth at home and risking complications. While Nepal has seen a decrease in maternal mortality over the past decade, the Aama program can be expanded even further by accounting for the various socio-economic issues women face.

Nikhil Khanal
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in NepalChild poverty in Nepal is an issue that the country continues to struggle with. While the child poverty rate has decreased over the past few decades, it is still detrimental to the overall progress of the country. In combating this issue, it is important to understand the consequences that stem from living in poverty. Two of these consequences are high levels of malnutrition and child marriage.

Overview of Child Poverty in Nepal

While Nepal has seen improvements over the past few decades, the overall poverty rate remains high. The decline of the child poverty rate in the country has not matched the decline of the overall poverty rate. Between 1995 and 2006, there was an 11% decline in the overall poverty rate, yet the decline in child poverty in that time period was only 8%.

The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified this issue by weakening Nepal’s economy and forcing children to stay home. The lack of income for parents and the lack of schooling due to the pandemic has pushed millions of households into a precarious situation. It is estimated that nearly 10 million children in Nepal live in impoverished circumstances. The presence of COVID-19 exacerbates the already damaging effects of child poverty, including malnutrition and child marriage.

Malnutrition Among Nepali Children

Maintaining high nutritional standards for children is vital for a country. It ensures children will grow up to be healthy and productive adults, fully able to break cycles of poverty. Child poverty in Nepal is detrimental, in part, because it leads to high rates of malnutrition. Malnutrition may cause developmental issues and results in chronic health problems later in life. While Nepal has made progress in lowering malnutrition rates among children, it is still a cause for concern. In 2019, 43% of children under 5 years old were malnourished. Moreover, 36% of these children suffer from stunting and 10% of these children suffer from wasting.

The country’s high poverty rate exacerbates this issue because low-income families are unable to afford a nutritious diet for their children. As a result, malnutrition rates in Nepal are directly linked to poverty. According to USAID, “17% of children in the highest wealth quintile are stunted as compared to 49% of children in the lowest wealth quintile.” These statistics demonstrate how poverty impacts child mortality. Malnutrition causes the deaths of almost half of all children who perish before reaching the age of 5 years old.

Due to the impacts of child poverty and malnutrition, the government has set up initiatives to improve nutritional standards in the country. Since the 1990s, programs such as the Vitamin A campaign have launched in order to increase the consumption of certain nutrients. In 2004, Nepal implemented the National Nutrition Policy and Strategy, which focuses on the nutrition of women and children.

Child Marriage and its Relation to Poverty

Child poverty in Nepal also directly impacts the rates of child marriage in the country. Despite the fact that marriage before the age of 20 is illegal, 37% of girls are married before the age of 18. Girls who marry at a young age are at a higher risk of facing domestic violence. Human Rights Watch states, “A study across seven countries found that girls who married before the age of 15 were more likely to experience spousal abuse than women who married after 25.”

Additionally, early marriages are associated with lower levels of education. Strict gender roles in Nepal dictate that married girls are expected to be homemakers so girls who get married while still in school often do not finish their education. Early childbearing also has health consequences for these young women. Poverty is a primary reason child marriages persist in Nepal, despite efforts made by the government to stop the practice. Young girls in impoverished families are married off to ease the economic burden on the family. One less child to feed is sufficient justification for a family to allow a child marriage. Some of these girls even welcome child marriage because it means they will have food to eat.

Looking Ahead

At a 2014 “Girl Summit” in London, Nepal pledged to end child marriage by 2030 in accordance with the U.N. Sustainable Goal to end child marriage by 2030. The government of Nepal partnered to develop the National Strategy to End Child Marriage in order to meet this objective.

Child poverty in Nepal continues as a challenge for the country and impacts a wide range of topics. Malnutrition and child marriage are pertinent issues associated with child poverty. With a government commitment and help from organizations, child poverty in Nepal can be combated.

Nikhil Khanal
Photo: Flickr

COPE NepalCOPE Nepal is a youth-led organization that collects and analyzes information about COVID-19 in Nepal to help coordinate efforts to send resources to Nepalese communities hardest hit by the pandemic.

COVID-19 in Nepal

There is no country that has not felt the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Nepal included. The first case of COVID-19 in Nepal was detected on January 23, 2020, and the first case of COVID-19 that was locally transmitted was detected nearly two months later on April 4, 2020. On March 9, 2021, the country’s total COVID-19 case count reached 274,869 and total deaths reached 3,012.

Due to an inadequate healthcare system, COVID-19 is particularly concerning in a developing country such as Nepal. After the detection of the first local transmission, Nepal took significant steps to limit COVID-19 transmission. However, difficulties arose due to cases with unknown origins and overwhelmed quarantine centers. Self-isolation became the only option, which is harder for the Nepalese government to regulate.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also had a negative effect on Nepal’s economy. In the last fiscal year, Nepal’s economy contracted for the first time in 40 years. Tourists were not allowed to climb the country’s famous peaks due to COVID-19 restrictions, hurting an economy that is highly dependent on tourism. Furthermore, as a result of school closures and other factors, child marriage is on the rise in Nepal, threatening to reverse progress made toward keeping girls in school.

COPE Nepal

As Nepalese colleges and universities transitioned to remote learning and many young adults found themselves in a state of uncertainty, they embraced creativity and innovation. COPE Nepal is an organization that formed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. A group of university students from data analytics, branding and communications backgrounds created COPE Nepal with the goal of collecting, presenting and disseminating data about COVID-19 in visual formats. According to the co-founder of COPE Nepal, Anup Satyal, the COVID-19 lockdown opened up more opportunities to make a meaningful impact in Nepal.

COPE Nepal’s Strategy

COPE Nepal’s strategy consists of four parts which are outlined in the acronym COPE:

  • Coordinate efforts and responses with local government and NGOs
  • Operationalize and allocate resources
  • Personalize the COVID-19 response to each location
  • Evaluate strategies and results on a daily basis

COPE Nepal has published a total of four reports showing the progression of COVID-19 in Nepal in a way that is easily understood by policymakers and average people. These reports are also easily accessible on the humanitarian information portal ReliefWeb.

On Instagram, COPE Nepal posted calls for individuals to share their accounts of the conditions in government quarantine facilities. Its Instagram also includes graphics and data from the four published reports and information about COVID-19 safety such as how to properly dispose of personal protective equipment (PPE).

A group of talented Nepalese university students started COPE Nepal out of a desire to help their country better respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. As Nepal transitions out of lockdown, COPE Nepal’s data collection and dissemination is important to ensure vulnerable populations are sufficiently protected from COVID-19.

Sydney Thiroux
Photo: Flickr

Nepal’s Refugee Resettlement Program
Much of the world struggles to assist refugees and other forcibly displaced people. However, Nepal stands out as a rare success story. The nation accepted more than 100,000 Bhutanese refugees since the 1990s. Nepal’s refugee resettlement program has proven to be effective. The program has relocated about 113,500 refugees to third countries. Additionally, many of the camps that emerged have shut down because they were no longer necessary. However, it is still challenging to provide refugees with their basic needs.

Origins of the Bhutanese Refugee Crisis

Ethnic Nepalis people whose origins lie in Bhutan primarily partake in Nepal’s refugee resettlement program. The Lhotshampas are Nepali people who reside in the southern portion of Bhutan and maintain a distinct culture.

The Bhutanese government initiated the One Nation, One People policy to promote the dominant Bhutanese culture. Many perceived this policy as an attempt to suppress Nepali culture in Bhutan. Additionally, this policy replaced the Nepali language with Dzongkha as the primary mode of instruction in schools. Furthermore, it forbade Nepalis from wearing their traditional clothing, forcing them to dress like the Bhutanese majority.

Bhutanese officials became wary of the substantial Lhotshampa population in the south after the 1988 census. Additionally, accusations emerged of them being illegal aliens along with instances of violence and discrimination. As a result, large numbers of ethnic Nepalis left Bhutan for refugee camps in Nepal.

Nepal’s Refugee Resettlement Program

The population of Lhotshampa refugees in Nepal has increased to more than 100,000 people. Unfortunately, talks with Bhutan failed to produce any solution. Thus, the government of Nepal developed a plan to resettle the refugees in other countries.

Nepal’s refugee resettlement program started in 2007. In addition, Nepal and eight other countries collaborated with each other. These countries are the United States, New Zealand, Norway, Canada, the Netherlands, Denmark, Australia and the United Kingdom. These nations agreed to accept Lhotshampa refugees, allowing them to lead new lives outside of refugee camps.

Organizations such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the government of Nepal have aided in the program’s success. UNHCR and the Nepalese government underwent efforts to provide documentation for each refugee. Photos and listings of details of each person provided an accurate number of refugees. This made monitoring the program much easier. In addition, IOM oversaw the practical side of the program. This included arranging flights and teaching refugees how to navigate through an airport.

Challenges That Those in the Camps Face

As a result of Nepal’s refugee resettlement program, the number of Lhotshampas in the country has decreased to about 6,000. Furthermore, out of the seven camps that began in the 1990s, only two remain in the Jhapa and Morang districts of eastern Nepal. While this constitutes a success, the Lhotshampas who remain in the camps still face challenges.

Many people feel isolated because they are unable to join their families abroad. Additionally, they suffer a lack of emotional support and income. As a result, many suffer from depression, substance abuse and suicide in these camps. Furthermore, the camp’s dwindling population has led to a shortage of teachers. UNHCR established a suicide prevention program and youth centers to combat these issues.

Nepal’s refugee resettlement program is effective in relocating most of the Lhotshampas refugees since the 1990s. UNHCR, IOM and the government of Nepal have allowed refugees to have the opportunity to lead new lives in other countries. Many challenges remain for those in the camps. However, the government has made significant efforts to address them.

– Nikhil Khanal
Photo: Flickr

Craft AssociationThe incidence of poverty in Nepal had been dropping before the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the pandemic could increase Nepal’s poverty rate to the levels of more than a decade ago due to a loss of jobs and income. A UNICEF-sponsored survey indicates that, in October 2020, a shocking 42% of families in Nepal had no income at all. Furthermore, in the same month, 45% of people reported job losses. In addition, one in five households surveyed reported being unable to secure adequate food to feed their families. Even people who still have jobs are earning less than before the pandemic. The tourism sector has also been severely hurt by the pandemic and more than half of all households are at risk of returning to poverty. The Association for Craft Producers (ACP) is helping combat poverty in Nepal.

The Association for Craft Producers

Helping to counter the effects of poverty in Nepal is the Association for Craft Producers. The organization founded in 1984 is a not-for-profit, fair trade organization that helps low-income Nepalese craft producers with design, marketing and management services for their craft products. Due to its success, it has grown to roughly 1,000 artisans, 90% of whom are women. The artisans produce beautiful crafts such as ceramic teapots, woven rugs and wooden tables. Nepali Craft Trading Ltd. exports the artisans’ products to 18 different countries. Since 2003, ACP has been certified as a Fair Trade organization. The group abides by the principles of fair trade as outlined by the World Fair Trade Organization to ensure artisans are provided with adequate compensation and benefits for their work.

Benefits for Nepali Artisans

The ACP artisans have access to a number of benefits to help lift them out of poverty and progress. For instance, artisans are provided a clothing stipend, 90 days of paid maternity leave and an allowance for emergencies. The ACP also provides information to the artisans on matters such as health, education and other important development topics. Since many of the women have never earned enough to be able to save money for the future, producers are encouraged to deposit 10% of their pay into an interest-producing account.

To encourage the education and empowerment of girls, ACP provides a monthly allowance for up to three years to producers who ensure their daughters are enrolled and participating in school for a minimum of four consecutive years. Furthermore, the ACP rewards the three best students with support for an additional year. In addition, the ACP provides the producers with funds for retirement. In these ways, ACP encourages financial security while providing outlets for the artisans to sell products.

Environmental Awareness

The ACP also takes specific actions to preserve its local environment at the foot of the Himalayan mountains. The practices include using recycled paper, installing a rainwater treatment plant and a wastewater treatment plant and discouraging the use of plastic bags. The artisans use an environmentally friendly acid for dyeing and water-based pigments for printing instead of oil-based paints. Finally, the artisans have switched to electric firing methods for ceramic products rather than kerosene-based firing. The women artisans remain environmentally conscious while helping to support families and reduce the devastating effects of poverty in Nepal.

Overall, the ACP craft association is supporting artisans in Nepal in several ways in order to ensure that they are able to rise out of poverty and secure better futures.

Sarah Betuel
Photo: Flickr

10 Years of Helping Babies Breathe
The first few minutes of a baby’s life have a significant impact on their chances of survival and their life quality. Statistically speaking, risks for newborn deaths are at their highest at that time. A main reason for the increased risk is asphyxia, a dangerous lack of oxygen right after birth. Every year, approximately 10 million newborns are unable to breathe on their own and require immediate help. In 2010, as a response to the medical issue, Helping Babies Breathe (HBB) was born. Recently, Helping Babies Breathe celebrated its anniversary for 10 years of work. Here is some information about the successes during the 10 years of Helping Babies Breathe.

USAID: An Important Partner

A partnership of many different agencies and organizations like Save the Children, Laerdal Global Health and the World Health Organization (WHO) launched the program Helping Babies Breathe. Another very important partner in the creation of HBB was the United States government’s agency USAID. After receiving Congress-approved funds from the federal government, USAID was able to be a key figure in establishing the program. The agency contributed significantly to HBB’s success by mobilizing more than $120 million to save newborns over the last decade.

Educating People

When HBB launched, its approach to fighting newborn mortality was based on creating a global movement. The goal was to raise awareness for the complications of asphyxia and to educate and train medics around the world. Thus, HBB focused on making educational materials and necessary equipment accessible for everyone. Furthermore, it supported training people in the resuscitation of newborns. When the program began, all the partners involved agreed on one ultimate goal. The plan was to assure that every infant started life with access to at least one person with the training to resuscitate babies after birth.

When HBB taught medics all around the globe how to reduce the risks of newborn mortality, it addressed several different approaches. One of HBB’s top priorities was to increase general hygiene and, thus, prevent potential infections. Helping Babies Breathe further gave clear instructions for the evaluation of a newborn. These included understanding crying as an indicator for whether or not a baby was receiving enough oxygen and examining the baby’s breathing more thoroughly. The program also taught providers how to react in the case of a newborn not being able to breathe. In order to do so, HBB focused specifically on the method of drying the baby to facilitate breathing. It also encouraged using ventilation and chest compression if drying was not enough.

Decreasing the Number of Newborn Deaths

In the last 10 years of Helping Babies Breathe, the program has successfully increased the chances for newborn survival. HBB has trained approximately 1 million people in more than 80 countries in resuscitating babies right after birth. A study in several different countries like Tanzania and Nepal has shown the huge impact of the program on the lives of infants. The number of stillborn babies has gone down by 34% and the number of newborns that die on their first day has reduced by 30% in places that have been working with HBB.

Governmental Independence

After initially investing in equipment and training birth attendants to help babies breathe, many places no longer need HBB. Seeing how successfully the program increased newborn survival, many of the countries that HBB was working with started to include the resuscitation techniques and new standards for medical providers into their governmental budgets. Since many countries now have the knowledge and determination to fight newborn deaths on their own, HBB partner and important sponsor USAID is able to slowly stop the financial support that the agency has been giving to the program for the last 10 years.

Bianca Adelman
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

3 Inventions Saving Babies in Developing Countries
A baby’s first, sole focus should be on growing. Babies with low birth weight and pre-term babies in developing countries face a higher risk of developmental disorders and neonatal death due to lack of access to healthcare. Devices such as the Pumani bCPAP, the NIFTY cup and the Embrace Warmer are inventions saving babies throughout developing countries.

The Pumani bCPAP

The primary cause of death in preterm babies is Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS). As such, the lungs are one of the last organs to develop in utero. Jocelyn Brown, a bioengineering student studying in Malawi created an affordable solution: the Pumani Bubble Continuous Positive Airway Pressure Device (Pumani bCPAP). The English word “breath” translates to “pumani” in the language of Chichewa.

A traditional bCPAP device is among these inventions saving babies because it is readily available in developed countries. However, it costs $6,000 and is not affordable to people in Malawi. Brown collaborated with physicians at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) in Blantyre, Malawi. The hospital had access to bottled oxygen, which administers low-flow oxygen through a tube connected to nasal prongs. Unfortunately, when treating neonatal RDS, it only had a success rate of 25%. On the other hand, the Pumani bCPAP almost triples the survival rate for preterm babies and costs less than $400 to manufacture.

The device uses a type of air pump that makes this innovation affordable. The Pumani bCPAP replaces the traditional high-tech commercial flow generator with a simple aquarium pump. Aquarium pumps are easy to repair and low-cost. Furthermore, it provides the exact airflow pressure necessary for the bCPAP device.

The Saving Lives at Birth Transition grant aided in distributing the Pumani bCPAP to hospitals throughout Malawi in 2012. Additionally, funding from the global healthcare company GSK and Save the Children helped roll out the device in Tanzania, Zambia and South Africa.

The NIFTY Cup

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends using a small cup to feed newborns who are unable to breastfeed. However, no such cup existed until Seattle Children’s hospital, PATH and Laerdal Global Health and the University of Washington worked together to develop The NIFTY Cup.

The NIFTY cup is a handheld, flexible cup made from silicone rubber. It has a design specifically for babies lacking the ability to breastfeed due to prematurity or craniofacial birth defects like a cleft palate or lip.

Mothers who do not have a NIFTY cup make do with whatever they have. Instead, mothers commonly use spoons, gravy boats, shot glasses or coffee cups. However, they can waste a lot of milk due to spillage and it is often challenging to monitor the amount the baby is drinking. Moreover, too much or too little milk can be dangerous for a newborn.

A mother is able to easily fill the NIFTY cup directly from the breast. There are volume markings on the side to monitor the amount the baby consumes. Furthermore, the cup’s design allows babies to suckle from the spout at a controlled pace. In addition, the cup is easy to clean, reusable and only costs $1.

The developers share a mission to save the lives of newborns in developing countries all around the world. PATH’s Trish Coffey said, “We know there are potentially millions of babies who need it. So we just kept at it.”

The Embrace Warmer

The Embrace Warmer is one of many inventions saving babies in developing nations as well. Four Stanford graduate students had the task of inventing a cost-effective device to treat premature and underweight babies who are unable to regulate their body temperature. The invention looks like a baby-sized sleeping bag but functions similarly to a traditional medical incubator. Additionally, it costs less than 1% of what an incubator costs. This is extremely important for developing communities in rural villages.

The inventors gathered research in a rural, poverty-stricken area of Nepal. They saw firsthand the importance of adapting the invention to make it accessible to communities that needed it the most. The team relocated and launched the first model in rural India. It is common practice in these rural areas for parents to not name their baby until it is a month. This is so parents do not get too attached to newborns in case they do not survive.

Additionally, the team developed a washable, affordable model that is seamless on the inside to avoid bacteria. Placing the wax insert into boiling water for a few minutes heats it up. The wax’s melting point is the human body temperature. Furthermore, it maintains its temperature of 98 degrees Fahrenheit for four to six hours. Fortunately, it does not require electricity. It is reusable and mothers can hold their babies while they are inside an Embrace Warmer.

The founders of Embrace debuted the invention in rural India in 2011. Then, Embrace joined forces with Thrive Health in 2015. Thrive Health is an international nonprofit with an accomplished newborn health program. Embrace Warm has aided more than 200,000 babies.

These inventions save babies’ lives in vulnerable, developing nations and aid in the reduction of population growth. Parents are more likely to have fewer children if they are confident in their survival. According to Bill Gates, “As children survive, parents feel like they’ll have enough kids to support them in their old age. And so they choose to have less children.”

– Sarah Ottosen
Photo: Flickr