» 09/22/2010, 00.00
Millennium Goals: maternal mortality in Nepal falls, but failure to deal with drought
The Millennium Development Goals Award, Nepal is the first of 49 developing countries for efforts to promote women's health. In the north of the country thousands of people leave their villages because of climate change and lack of government intervention.
Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - At the Summit on poverty underway in the UN in New York, Nepal won the Millennium Development Goal Award for its efforts against maternal mortality, coming first out of a list of 49 other developing countries. The award ceremony took place on 19 September. It has brought new hope to the country, which in addition to the deep political crisis of recent months is also having to face the damage caused by climate change in the Himalayan region.
Over the past 10 years in Nepal, mortality during childbirth has fallen by about 55%, from 415 deaths per 100 thousand in 2000 to 229 in 2010. The result is mainly due to educational programs for women developed by the government, which in recent years has trained over 50 thousand volunteers in cooperation with the organization U.S. World Vision and other foreign NGOs. Other success factors are the improvement of roads and increasing the average age of marriage.
Maternal mortality is however only one of the problems afflicting the people of Nepal. Since the beginning of the year alternating drought and floods in the north has forced people to flee their lands. According to local sources there are already 10 thousand refugees.
In recent months in the district of Dhankuta (North Eastern Nepal), due to drought more than 200 people from mountain villages have fled their homes to reach the plains of Terai region. Ganesh Karky of Keruletenu village, says: "How can we live without water? The disappearance of water resources and scare rain has forced many of us to flee". "For months – he continues - we worked with only one litre of water a day, but how much longer can we tolerate the lack of drinking water?". Like other residents of affected areas Karky calls for government intervention, that has so far done nothing to help the population.
Arpana Karki, coordinator of Caritas in Kathmandu, points out that there are sufficient resources to assist the population affected by drought and floods in the North in the rest of the country. "First of all – she states - we want the government to take care of its responsibilities instead of relying only on ourselves and begin to provide practical support for our aid programs." At the moment - she adds - we do not have sufficient resources to help these people, because we are too focused on assisting the flood victims. But we can start planning programs only if the government will grant us more money to work".
The problem of climate change has prompted the Himalaya governments of Nepal and Bhutan to organize for the upcoming Sept. 27 a meeting of the Alliance of Mountain Countries. The event runs until 28 September and will involve teams of agronomists and climatologists who try to study the measures needed to cope with the thaw of the Himalayan glaciers.
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