Deukali Shahi, 26, looks relieved after delivering a healthy baby girl, but her calmness belies her traumatic childbirth. Her eyes fill with tears as she speaks haltingly of the previous baby she lost and the desperation she felt this time to reach the hospital fast enough so this one would live.

Soon, Shahi is overcome with grief and cannot say more. Her sister-in-law Tulaja fills in the rest of the story. The baby was in breech position, but the family did not know this until Deukali was already in labour. They took her to a nearby healthpost, where the nurse said there was nothing they could do. They went on to the district hospital in Mangalsen, which did not have a surgeon to perform a caesarean.

“We drove another four hours and arrived here at two in the night, and the doctors operated on her,” Tulaja said. “Now we have a healthy baby girl.”

Deukali lost her first child due to the same complication, but the family did not know why the baby would not come out. In these remote mountains of Achham, home delivery is the norm and the district has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in Nepal.

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