PETALING JAYA - The lives of around 18,000 babies and mothers are at risk following the double earthquakes that hit Nepal in April and May, according to Unicef.
Its representative to Nepal Tomoo Hozumi said there is a need to restore the key healthcare systems in the country, especially its maternity facilities, to prevent putting their lives at risk.
"The number of mothers giving birth outside hospitals and birthing centres is feared to have gone up by more than a third in the worst-affected areas of the country since last month's earthquake," said Hozumi in a statement on Friday.
He said it is estimated that about 12 babies are being born every hour without access to basic healthcare in the areas worst hit by the earthquakes.
At least 70 per cent of birthing centres across the 14 most affected districts of the country have either been damaged or destroyed.
He said it is crucial that newborns and their mothers have access to healthcare facilities to ensure the safe deliveries of babies and well-being of the mothers.
"The first days of life are the most critical and dangerous for a child - and we are extremely concerned for the well-being of newborns, as well as for their mothers.
"As well as vulnerable newborns, pregnant mothers urgently need support as the risks of premature birth, miscarriage and complications rise amid the stress and confusion caused by the earthquakes," he added.
Hozumi said even before the double earthquakes, Nepal's maternal and newborn healthcare facilities were limited, despite progress being made in the last few decades in the country.
"We expect around 90 women a day to need a caesarean section and, at present, the systems cannot cope," he said.
He added that Unicef is working with its partners to deliver aid to mothers and babies in desperate conditions by setting up mobile clinics, emergency medical tents, and shelter homes for mothers and newborns in the worst hit areas of the earthquakes.
The first 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal on April 25, killing more than 8,000 people and injuring over 18,000 people, according to news reports.
The following 7.3 magnitude earthquake hit the country on May 12, with the number of dead registering at more than 90 people and still rising.