Because there are usually 15 to 16 people sleeping under one tent in the refugee camps, everyone feels a bit uncomfortable and awkward—but for women, it is more so.
About 14,000 women are expected to give birth in Nepal this June, and all are desperately in need of food, clothing, and medical supplies. But above all what is needed are more tents for the privacy of women.
Nepal already had one of the worst infant mortality rates in Asia, with overcrowded and understaffed hospitals. But the two recent earthquakes have rendered the hospitals in even worse shape, leaving mothers at greater risk of having dangerous births, or premature births brought on by the stress of the disaster.
The lack of sleep due to anxiety and the poor sanitary conditions greatly affect pregnant women and new mothers. Infection and outbreaks of cholera—especially during the beginning of reconstruction in the midst of this monsoon season—are real threats.
More nutritional food packages for pregnant and breastfeeding women are needed as part of the on-going relief effort.
But women find it embarrassing and difficult to breastfeed in the crowded tents and are becoming weak from lack of food and sleep.
More safe tents for mothers to nurse their children are needed.
Menstruation is a taboo in Nepalese culture and most women are reluctant to talk about it. In normal conditions Nepalese women sleep in separate beds during this time, but this is not possible for earthquake survivors in the camps. While pregnant women are terrified for their unborn babies, these women are forced to sleep along side surviving male members of their family or even strangers. This is mortifying for these women and leaves most with anxiety, many with insomnia.
Charities have been handing out sanitary pads to these women since late May, but what is even more needed are extra tents for their privacy.
Author: Linda Lewis
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: DFID – UK Flickr