Maternal, Newborn, & Child Health after the 2015 Nepal Earthquakes

An investigation into the long-term gendered impacts of disasters

Natural disasters in resource-poor countries have differential effects on socially disadvantaged groups such as women.  In addition to the acute reproductive health needs of women during the immediate response phase of a disaster, research suggests that maternal, newborn, and child health (MNCH) may continue to be seriously impacted for numerous months, even years, after the event.  This ethnographic field research investigates the impacts of the 2015 Nepal earthquakes on mothers and children under five on the six-month anniversary of the earthquakes.  Though families were not channeling household funds away from health care expenses for pregnant and lactating women and children under five, the findings suggest that a delayed response by the Nepali government in administering funds for rebuilding combined with an ongoing fuel crisis were negatively impacting families’ abilities to provide adequate shelter, warmth, cooking gas, and transportation for mothers and young children.  This study highlights the importance of understanding the impacts of specific social and political contexts on intra-household family finances as they relate to MNCH, not just variables related to the disaster itself.  Future research and policies on MNCH during the long-term recovery period after a natural disaster such as the 2015 Nepal earthquakes therefore should take into account the social and political context as well as institute multiple periodic assessments of MNCH in the first few years following the disaster.

Maternal and Child Health Journal, Volume 21, Issue 12, pages 2267-2273