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Original research
Neonatal mortality and child health in a remote rural area in Nepal: a mixed methods study
  1. Bindu Kumari Karki1,
  2. Guenter Kittel2
  1. 1 Medical Faculty, Charité University, Berlin, Germany
  2. 2 Medical Faculty, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria
  1. Correspondence to Dr Guenter Kittel; guenterkittel{at}


Objective To assess neonatal and under-five mortality and the health situation for children in Dolpa, a remote rural area of Nepal.

Study design Mixed methods: quantitative (retrospective cross sectional) and qualitative (semistructured interviews).

Rationale Progress in reducing child and newborn mortality in Nepal has reached the remote areas to a limited extent. Furthermore, there may be substantial under-reporting and data may be unreliable.

Setting and participants The population of Dolpa district is approximately 35 000. We visited 10 randomly selected villages (plus one settlement) with approximately 12 000 inhabitants.

Methodology Records of the number of deliveries, neonatal and under-five deaths were collected. 100 children (10 different villages) were evaluated for common diseases present during the month prior to the investigation. 20 interviews were conducted about the cultural perceptions of neonatal death and morbidity; in each village at least one interview was undertaken.

Results The population of the 10 villages (plus one settlement) under investigation was 12 287. 300 deliveries have taken place during the last 12 months before the study. There were 30 children reported to have died; out of those 20 were in the neonatal period. This reflects an estimated neonatal mortality rate in Dolpa district of 67/1000 live births (95% CI 41-101/1000) and an estimated under-five mortality rate of 100/1000 (95% CI 70-140/1000). In the previous month, out of 100 children surveyed there had been 11 cases of acute lower respiratory infection (ALRI), 7 cases of diarrhoea, 3 cases of isolated malnutrition and 5 cases of malnutrition combined with ALRI or diarrhoea.

Based on qualitative interviews traditional beliefs still play a major role, and are partly a hindrance to progress in health. There is also mistrust in the health services and misconceptions about ‘modern’ medicine and treatment facilities.

Conclusion Despite progress in child morbidity and mortality in Nepal, some areas remain underserved by health services and neonatal mortality is far above the Nepalese average, which is 29/1000 live births. There is a substantial need to increase and train health staff. Health promotion should be encouraged but cultural perceptions have to be understood if positive behavioural change is to be achieved.

  • Nepal
  • neonatal mortality
  • child mortality and morbidity
  • remote districts
  • rural communities
  • lack of access
  • poverty

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  • Contributors GK collected the data and has done the interviews. BKK and GK did the study design. GK has developed the section on methodology. BKK and GK did the analysis and interpretation of data, BKK and GK together developed the discussion as well as the summary and conclusion. GK served as the senior academic adviser.

  • Funding The study received funding from the Ross Trust Fund, Melbourne, Australia, through the University of Melbourne.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval Ethics approval was granted by the ‘Nepal Health Research Council’ (NHRC, Ref No 743) on 4 October 2018. The guidelines were strictly followed.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information.

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