Save the Children New Zealand will launch a new programme aimed at providing maternal and newborn services to thousands of families in north-west Nepal thanks to a generous $1 million gift in the will of two Auckland siblings.

The new health programme is expected to begin in September and support health facilities and birthing centres in the Nepalese region, with best-practice health and nutrition training provided to health workers and caregivers. The programme aims to reach 4000 children in need.

“The incredible generosity shown by the late Auckland siblings will create a long-lasting legacy for the people of Nepal. Every gift we receive – big or small – is immensely important to us and helps us carry out our lifechanging work for children,” says Save the Children New Zealand Chief Executive Heidi Coetzee.

“Young children’s health and nutritional, developmental, and protection needs at home and in the community have been a significant concern for a long time in Nepal, especially in the Karnali Province. Low birth weights, underweight children and developmental milestones not being reached are ongoing issues in the province, while an extremely high number of children are experiencing physical punishment or psychological aggression, with the highest rate being among children under the age of five.

“94% of children living in the province do not have three or more books or playing materials at home and children are failing to meet their full potential. While there are many factors responsible, the COVID-19 pandemic has made these issues worse because of the number of parents who either have lost their lives or, even for those not sick, have lost their income and along with it their access to medical care.”

Save the Children New Zealand and Nepal will work alongside local non-government organisation Dailekh-based Everest Club Dailekh to target all pregnant and lactating women and their partners in Chamunda Bindrasaini Municipality and Aathbish Municipality, as well as caregivers of young children (0-3 years old).

Ms. Coetzee says the new programme will build on the success of previous programmes for children in Nepal over many years of Save the Children New Zealand and Nepal working together, alongside support from the New Zealand Government.  

Designed with input from local authorities in the Dailekh district, the programme will involve three key areas of intervention: improving access and utilisation of quality health and nutrition services for young children, educating parents and caregivers and improving capacities of local and provincial governments to support the wellbeing of younger children.

The programme will look to build on existing health facilities to improve the quality of care provided, including minor repairs, provision of equipment and training staff.

Save the Children Nepal’s Country Director Jennifer Syed says the project will help fill a crucial gap in maternal and newborn services and provide vital parent and caregiver education along with the mental health and psychosocial support that will protect future generations.

“Children in these areas are failing to meet the potential in their development across health, nutrition and learning; they aren’t being adequately protected from physical punishment. We know this is worse for children with disability since there is no system for early detection of disability in very young children. Working directly with parents to improve their own knowledge and skills, while at the same partnering with local government to ensure they prioritise addressing these issues in the longer term is the key to lasting improvement in the lives of these children.

“New Zealand and Nepal have had close ties since Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay climbed Everest many decades ago. We’re so grateful for the support of our Kiwi partners and the generosity shown by two Auckland siblings whose gift will mean so much to the people of Nepal.”