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Big strides in Kingdom's stillbirth rate

Cambodia’s stillbirth rate was nearly halved in the past 15 years, one of the fastest rates of improvement in the world, according to new global data published today as part of a series of papers in The Lancet journal.

The Kingdom still ranks 101 among 195 countries surveyed, with a stillbirth rate of 11.9 deaths per 1,000 births in 2015 – with a stillbirth being defined by the WHO as foetal deaths in pregnancies lasting seven or more months.

However, the study’s co-author, Dr Hannah Blencow, said in an email that Cambodia has the “lowest estimated rate amongst all low income countries, and the fastest estimated rate of progress” – at 3.6 per cent – within the same group. Improved counting of stillbirths will help going forward, she added.

According to Dr Kannitha Cheang and Dr Sano Phal, of the WHO in Cambodia, this drop can be attributed to significant improvements in maternal child health. In fact, Cheang and Phal pointed to WHO data which show that between 2010 and 2014 the number of births attended by skilled health personnel rose from 73 per cent to 89 per cent, while births attended at a health facility rose from 54 per cent to 83 per cent.

Cheang and Phal, in a joint email, said “the five main causes of stillbirth are childbirth complications, maternal infections in pregnancy, maternal disorders (especially hypertension and diabetes), foetal growth restriction and congenital abnormalities”, adding that two-thirds occur in rural areas where skilled personnel and equipment is lacking.

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