During the COVID-19 lockdown, PHASE’s health staff are continuing to serve vulnerable, remote communities in Nepal, throughout the health and economic crisis caused by COVID-19. Our PHASE ANMs and health staff continue to serve as a link between vulnerable communities and quality healthcare, identifying patients with health problems, counselling, diagnosing, treating, and referring patients to higher centers. During this unprecedented time, PHASE’s mission to serve and empower the vulnerable with quality healthcare is more important than ever before
Dhainakot, Mugu– This is the unfortunate story of how S. J. lost a newborn due to fears of seeking medical help in a time of COVID-19. 20 year old S. J. lives in a poor household with her husband and in-laws, who depend on farming for a daily living. Expecting for the first time, S.J , regularly attended antenatal check-ups at the PHASE supported clinic in Dhainakot.
On the 14th Chaitra 2076 (27th March, 2020), she gave birth in a home delivery. The baby had a strange protrusive sac on its lower back. 7 days later, on the 21st Chaitra 2076(3rd April, 2020), S.J’s mother in law finally informed PHASE health staff about the infant’s condition. Our health staff took a detailed history and examined the baby, diagnosing the child with Spinal Bifida, a birth defect that occurs when the spine and spinal cord don’t form fully. The protrusion on the baby’s lower back discharged fluids, exposing nerves and tissues. The baby weighed a mere 2200 grams.
PHASE health staff applied Silver Sulfadiazine ointment on the protrusion and referred S.J to immediately go to the District Hospital in Gamgadhi for treatment. After being met with resistance by S.J‘s in-laws, the PHASE health staff explained how grave the condition is and advised the family to seek immediate treatment for the child in a higher center.
But, S.J’s in-laws were adamant they wouldn’t take the child there, expressing fears of possibly contracting COVID-19 infection on the journey and within the district hospital, even though there were no cases in the area. PHASE health staff even promised to arrange for safe travel to the Gamgadhi hospital, but the in-laws were worried of potential COVID-19 and so they returned to their home, hoping the baby’s condition would improve without treatment.
Unfortunately, just two days later on the 23rd Chaitra (5th April), our health staff got information that the baby did not survive. S.J.’s mother in law shared, “We should have listened to your advice and gone to the hospital. We could have saved our grandchild but we didn’t.”
As COVID-19 continues to spread throughout Nepal, it is not just Coronavirus patients who suffer and perish, but also sick people, children, and families in rural Nepal who do not seek out medical attention out of fear of COVID-19. Women like S.J. face a difficult choice- to seek higher medical attention to treat their sick children and risk contracting COVID-19, or stay home out of cautious fear and risk losing their child. An impossible choice which has become yet another consequence of COVID-19.