Nepal has shown significant progress in reducing maternal and perinatal mortality over the past two decades (see Table 1). Despite progress, maternal mortality in Nepal continues to be one of the main causes of death among women of reproductive age and a major public health problem. In 2015, it was estimated that about 1500 women died in Nepal during pregnancy, delivery and the puerperium period (WHO 2015). While it is clearly important to monitor this, the maternal mortality ratio only illustrates part of the story. There is a real need to better understand the story behind the maternal mortality change over the past 10 years and to put in place the necessary steps to prevent maternal deaths in the future. Thus, Nepal has been undertaking a number of initiatives to identify programmatically useful information to inform investment and interventions in maternal health.
Table 1: Estimates on the maternal mortality ratio, neonatal mortality rate and perinatal mortality rate
|Maternal mortality ratio (per 100,000 live births)
|Neonatal mortality rate (per 1,000 live births)
|Perinatal mortality rate (per 1,000 births)
Note: the next Demographic Health Survey for Nepal will report data from 2016.
In 1990, a maternal death review process was first introduced in Paropakar Maternity and Women’s Hospital in Kathmandu, the only maternity hospital in the country. The hospital began implementing perinatal death review in 2003. By 2006, maternal and perinatal death reviews were being conducted in six hospitals increasing to 44 referral hospitals by 2014. Furthermore, maternal mortality and morbidity studies were undertaken in three districts in 1998 increasing to eight districts in 2008-9.
In line with the recommendations of the Commission on Information and Accountability / World Health Organization (CoIA/WHO), the Government of Nepal (GoN) initiated a maternal and perinatal death surveillance and response system in 2014. The system builds on experiences from MPDR implementation and the maternal mortality and morbidity study.
While facility-based reviews of maternal and perinatal deaths continue in 44 referral hospitals, the GoN, with support from the WHO and other partners has been implementing MPDSR in five districts, namely Banke, Dhading, Kailali, Kaski and Solukhumbu since 2016. In these districts, MPDSR is implemented at two levels: health facility and community. At the facility level, both maternal and perinatal deaths are reviewed and appropriate actions are taken. In the community, verbal autopsies are conducted for maternal deaths only.
Diagram 1 (see link below) presents the role of different stakeholders/actors in MDSR at the community level and MPDSR at the facility level.
The Ministry of Health of Nepal, with support from the WHO, UNICEF, Nepal Health Sector Support Programme / Department for International Development and other partners, has taken the lead and made a commitment to gradually scale up maternal and perinatal death surveillance and response to all hospitals across the country by 2020 and ultimately expand to include community-based maternal death surveillance and response. A series of planning meetings are taking place with experts to finalise the training modules, review processes, and develop implementation guidelines, to name a few.
World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, UNFPA, the World Bank Group & the United Nations Population Division. (2015). Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990 – 2015. Estimates by WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA, World Bank Group and the United Nations Population Division. Geneva: WHO.
Acknowledgements: This country update was prepared and reviewed by Dr Sharad Kumar Sharma, Senior Demographer, Family Health Division, DoHS, MoH; Dr Pooja Pradhan, WHO Country Office, Nepal; and Mr Pradeep Poudel, NHSSP/DFID/MoH, Nepal.
 World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, UNFPA, the World Bank Group & the United Nations Population Division. (2015). Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990 – 2015. Estimates by WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA, World Bank Group and the United Nations Population Division. Geneva: WHO.
 UNICEF, WHO, World Bank, UN DESA Population Division. (2015). Child mortality estimates: UN Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation. Retrieved September 22, 2016, from: http://www.childmortality.org
 Ministry of Health and Population, New ERA and ICF International. (2012) Nepal: Demographic Health Survey 2011. Kathmandu: Government of Nepal.