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Report raises alarm over Cambodian child deaths

THE national reduction in the child mortality rate has not been applied uniformly across socioeconomic groups, and children from the poorest 20 percent of families are three times less likely to reach age 5 than those in the top 20 percent, a new global report from the NGO Save the Children has warned.

The report, titled A Fair Chance at Life: Why Equity Matters for Child Mortality, argues that Cambodia would be on track to meet the Millennium Development Goal pertaining to child mortality had child health gains been spread more evenly. Instead, the report says, the gap in survival rates between wealthy and poor children appears to be increasing.

According to the report, Cambodia’s progress towards achieving the child mortality goal, which calls for the mortality rate to be reduced by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015, has been slower than the average of 31 other developing countries analysed.

Cambodia has paled in comparison to countries such as Bangladesh, which has managed to reduce child deaths at almost double the rate – and in a more “equitable way” – despite recording a lower annual growth rate in GDP per capita.

Anika Rabbani, communication manager for Save the Children, said Bangladesh’s progress was due to “immunisation, diarrhoea treatment, family planning and of course gender empowerment”, among other factors.

The local and UK offices of Save the Children could not be reached yesterday.

Viorica Berdaga, chief of UNICEF Cambodia’s Child Survival Programme, said yesterday that the government’s National Strategic Development Plan and other plans addressing health “clearly state that equity is a guiding principle”. She highlighted a plan to expand health equity funds – which cover expenses for the poor – nationwide and increasing services in poor and remote communities.

“The government takes it quite seriously. The challenge is operationalising this principle – for example, when you have staffing shortages and geographical barriers,” Berdaga said.

The report was released to coincide with the 2010 MDG Summit to be held later this month in New York.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AFP

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