Female health volunteers of Nepal: the backbone of health care

Elsevier, Volume 393, Issue 10171, 9–15 February 2019, Pages 19-20.
Nirmal Kandel and Jaya Lamichhane

In the 1980s, Nepal started a programme of female community health volunteers, commonly known as “mahila swoyemsewika”, which means “female volunteer”. In the early days, their roles were to support family planning, especially by distributing birth control pills and condoms. Gradually, their roles were expanded to include other programmes. The volunteers are instrumental in achieving the health-related Millennium Development Goals and other targets. This programme has been the backbone of the health system in Nepal for the past three decades. To date, there are more than 50 000 volunteers in Nepal, educating villagers through health promotion (sanitation, nutrition, family planning, HIV, and maternal and child health), delivering health services (family planning, deworming, polio campaigns, and integrated management of childhood illnesses), and collecting and reporting demographic data to an intermediary in the community.