For a country starved of good news, the recent findings of the Nepal Demographic and Health Survey 2011 brought some cheer to policymakers and common Nepalis. Despite problems, the country had improved on almost all health indicators.
One major highlight was the sharp decline in fertility rate among women between 1986 and 2010 from 5.1 children per woman to just 2.6 children. Both urban and rural areas witnessed the drop.
Half the women respondents were found practising various methods of family planning, but choice differed on their place of residence and education level.
Use of modern methods of contraception was significantly higher among urban women and while sterilisation was the most preferred mode of family planning among illiterate women, educated women chose temporary methods like pills, condoms and IUDs.
Deliveries though skilled healthcare workers doubled in the past five years and births in hospitals also saw a 10% increase. But while delivery by health care workers was 73% in urban areas, it was 32% in villages.
Mortality in post-neonatal, infant, child and under 5 years of age categories also recorded decline since 2006. Neonatal mortality, however, remained stagnant at 33 deaths per 1,000 live births.
Nutritional indicators too showed improvement. But still 41% children under five are short for their age and 16% are stunted. Twenty nine percent of children are underweight and 8% severely underweight.
The survey revealed that while most men and women knew about HIV/AIDS and ways to prevent it, in practice most men didn’t follow the preventive measures. Only 27% men who had more than one sexual partner during the past year reported using condoms.
It showed 34% of women between 15-49 years had experienced physical violence. And rural women are more likely to experience physical violence.
Physical violence was highest among women with no education (51%). As women became more educated, their chances of experiencing violence decreased significantly.