UMN has a long history of grassroots work in health services in Nepal, and under the SSMP partnership, which ended in 2009, worked to strengthen SMNH services and increase access in two districts.
UMN was established in 1954 as a Christian organisation with supporting links and volunteer staff from 18 different countries. It works to address poverty and its root causes in Nepal, initially through direct implementation of activities across Nepal, and more recently by working in partnership with Nepali organisations. The current strategic plan is focused on five geographical clusters (in the districts of Dhading, Mugu, Rukum, Rupandehi and Sunsari) in eight work areas (conflict transformation, food sovereignty, disaster management, HIV/AIDS, education, organisational development, enterprise development, women and children).
As a partner in SSMP, UMN worked in Rupandehi and Mugu districts to strengthen safe motherhood and newborn health services and ensure their availability 24 hours a day. This included enhancing the capacity of the district health system in SMNH planning, upgrading of selected health facilities and contributing to national policy and strategy formulation based on local needs and concerns. The initial agreement was to upgrade Mugu Hospital and one Primary Health Care Centre (PHCC) in Rupandehi to provide Basic Emergency Obstetric Care, plus selected health posts to provide delivery services or be upgraded to birthing centres. By the end of the partnership this had been extended to a total of 13 health facilities in the two districts. As a result, Mugu Hospital and all the supported facilities in Rupandehi provide some level of basic emergency care and the health posts in Mugu provide 24-hour delivery care. At each facility, much of the emphasis was on strengthening and activating the health facility management committees to enable them to plan effectively and build on the financial and technical inputs provided, ensuring health facilities respond to community needs and communities in turn provide support.
UMN will continue working in Mugu, as a significantly disadvantaged district, but is withdrawing from Rupandehi as it is a relatively advantaged district which it is felt can carry the SSMP/UMN inputs forward under the leadership of the District Health Office.