Building a Better Future for Women and Newborns in Nepal

By Giving List Women   |   May 20, 2024
One Heart Worldwide’s Senior Training Officer, Pratiksha Rai, sitting with pregnant women and recently delivered women after an informational session in Sarlahi, Nepal. (photo by Pratiksha Rai)

The question was simple: “How can you help pregnant women and newborn babies survive?”

The question led to the creation of One Heart Worldwide, according to David Murphy, chief executive officer of the international organization. Beginning its operations in Tibet, after founder Arlene Samen met with the Dalai Lama, who posed this question, One Heart Worldwide eventually moved to neighboring Nepal. This is where it continues its life-saving work to decrease maternal and newborn mortality rates in some of the most remote regions of Nepal.

One Heart Worldwide prides itself on providing maternal and neonatal healthcare by increasing access to safe pregnancy throughout Nepal using a unique model called the Network of Safety.

Making Giving Birth Safe and Accessible

The Network of Safety is a six-year model where One Heart Worldwide works with the government to strengthen the existing health system. It begins with conducting an intensive assessment of rural birthing centers and tailoring a plan of action that includes the upgrading of birthing centers, providing equipment, training healthcare professionals, and building the capacity of local governing structures. These activities are implemented over years two to four with the local government sharing in the financial cost. In the final two years, One Heart Worldwide begins transitioning out of active implementation but remains engaged to ensure long-term sustainability.

“Maternal healthcare is challenging in many countries. Americans don’t know how good we have it,” Murphy notes. “We take for granted so many of the opportunities and services that we have. In Nepal, a woman [or girl] gets married at an early age, 15, 18, maybe 20. … And when she’s pregnant, she doesn’t know what’s going on with her body and isn’t afforded access to quality services that we have in the West.”

“For many of these women, they live one or two days’ walk on extremely rough roads,” Murphy continues. “The terrain in Nepal is [treacherous]. … It takes hours to drive … because the roads are literally built into the side of mountains with sheer drop-offs. Just giving them access to care is something that we’ve been working on since we’ve been in Nepal.”

“What’s unique is that we go in with just a finite period of time,” Murphy explains. “We have an exit strategy from day one, and we know that we’re going to cost-share with the municipality. So, it’s a partnership of building up the existing system and not setting up a parallel structure to foster sustainability.”

Partnering with Local Stakeholders

Skilled Birth Attendant and expectant mother at a Birthing Center in Nepal during a rural ultrasound. (photo by J. Houston)

Katie Dyas, communications manager for the organization, is a champion of this system because they collaborate with the local communities instead of simply relying on foreign intervention.

“We obviously influence things and help things along,” Dyas observes. “But what I love is that Nepalese are serving Nepalese. It’s not a bunch of Americans going in and saying, ‘You’re doing everything wrong, and you need to change all of these things.’”

In the end, those they train, such as Skilled Birth Attendants, are quick to mention their boost in confidence.

“With One Heart there are safety nets in place,” Dyas explains. “So, if they need to be referred to a District Hospital … they know where to send patients and can assess complications to ensure that this mother and newborn can survive.”

Through this “each one, teach one” method, One Heart Worldwide can be confident that their work and their mission has been successful and can be modeled across different districts and national borders.

It’s a mission worth striving for, one community and one nation at a time.


One Heart Worldwide

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(720) 635-4872
Chief Executive Officer: David Murphy


One Heart Worldwide’s mission is to save the lives and promote the well-being of mothers and their newborns in underserved areas of rural nepal.

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