NEPAL – Contraceptive shortage looms
Health facilities nationwide could soon run out of contraceptives such as condoms, pills, implants and emergency pills as the Ministry of Health and Population lacks funds to procure them. Officials blamed the reduction in the health budget as the main reason for their inability to purchase essential contraceptives to be distributed from health care facilities. A possible shortage of the items will eventually cause multiple problems including a rise in unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions and maternal deaths.
“This year we borrowed 50,000 implants from UNFPA. They have already been used,” said Kabita Aryal, chief at the Family Planning and Reproductive Health Section of the Family Welfare Division under the Department of Health Services. “Due to the reduction in the budget allocated by the government, we could not purchase contraceptives on time.” Several other programmes including awareness campaigns and training and orientation of health workers have also been affected by the budgetary cut, according to officials.
The purchase of contraceptive commodities also declined as the government diverted the budget to procure Covid-19 vaccines. Officials say aid agencies, which used to provide such commodities as demanded by the government, have introduced a co-financing model, which means the government too has to pay for the commodities now.
Officials at the Ministry said that around 40% of the total budget for healthcare was slashed this year. The budget for family planning and reproductive health has been reduced to Rs80 million from Rs120 million in the past. Experts warn that multiple effects of the shortage of contraceptives at healthcare facilities could include a rise in unwanted pregnancies and maternal and child death rates, which have improved over the years after making huge investments in the programmes. Experts warn that multiple effects of the shortage of contraceptives at healthcare facilities could include a rise in unwanted pregnancies and maternal and child death rates, which have improved over the years after making huge investments in the programmes.
Nepal had reduced the maternal mortality rate from 539 per 100,000 births in 1996 to 239 in 2016, for which the country received a Millennium Development Goals award. “Unintended pregnancy is a reality for millions each year, accounting for nearly half of all pregnancies,” said the UNFPA report. “Sixty percent of these unintended pregnancies will end in abortion.”
SOURCE: Kathmandu Post, by Arjun Poudel, 25 September 2023