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Ministry reports rise in births attended by trained staff in 2009

HEALTH Minister Mam Bunheng said on Monday that the proportion of pregnant women who gave birth with the aid of a skilled health attendant had increased from 58 percent in 2008 to 63 percent in 2009.

Maternal health experts say increasing access to skilled health personnel for pregnant women is critical to lowering Cambodia’s maternal mortality rate, which is one of the worst in the region. The 2008 national census pegged the rate at 461 deaths for every 100,000 live births.

Speaking at the Health Ministry’s annual conference on Monday, Mam Bunheng said that 221,777 of 351,630 pregnant women recorded by the ministry had been accompanied by trained health professionals when they delivered.

“We have tried to educate people many times about the importance of skilled delivery births, and many pregnant women are aware of that now,” he said.

The Millennium Development Goal pertaining to maternal mortality originally called for the rate to be lowered to 140 by 2015, though Health Ministry officials have since requested that the target be raised to 240.

To meet one of the goal’s interim targets, Cambodia must increase the proportion of births attended by skilled health personnel to 70 percent in 2010.

According to a report distributed by the Health Ministry at the annual meeting on Monday, a total of 984 health facilities nationwide were staffed by employees trained to handle live births, up from 967 in 2008.

Pen Sophanara, a communications associate for the UN Population Fund, said the Health Ministry would continue to work towards deploying midwives in rural areas, where the percentage of births attended by skilled personnel has traditionally been low.

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