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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Maternal death rate sliding, claims gov’t

Maternal death rate sliding, claims gov’t

Cambodia's Ministry of Health said yesterday that it recorded 116 “cases” of maternal mortality in 2013, a figure that is markedly lower than accepted rates recorded by health organisations in recent years.

The ministry’s annual report mentions the 116 cases, but does not specify if this figure is a rate per 100,000 live births, a common way of presenting such data.

It also does not provide a specific definition of what it considers maternal mortality.

Recent studies have placed Cambodia’s maternal mortality rate at between about 200 and 300 deaths per 100,000 live births.

In a 2013 report, the United Nations Population Fund found that 250 women died per 100,000 live births in Cambodia, or nearly double the Kingdom’s 2015 Millennium Development Goal.

But Health Minister Mam Bun Heng said at yesterday’s report launch that “according to the report, [we] have nearly achieved the Kingdom’s 2015 Millennium Development Goal”.

According to the ministry’s report, about 320,000 births were recorded last year, 80 per cent of which took place in recognised health centres.

“The government is making efforts to promote women giving birth in health centres, especially in rural areas, and that’s why we want to expand more health centres,” Bun Heng said.

Denise Shepherd-Johnson, UNICEF Cambodia’s chief of communications, said that while the rate in Cambodia was declining, other maternal deaths at home or in private health facilities may have gone unrecorded by the government last year.

“Although there has been a decrease in maternal mortality . . . disparities exist for women in deprived or hard-to-reach communities where they do not have access to basic and essential health services and where it is a norm to use traditional birth attendants,” she said.

Tung Rathavy, director of the National Maternal and Child Health Centre, said the government needed to focus on increasing prenatal care and reproductive healthcare access.

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