Taking strides to curb Cambodia’s high maternal and child mortality rates, health officials yesterday launched a $14 million initiative to improve women’s limited access to reproductive health care.
During the three-year Partnering to Save Lives campaign, funded by AusAid, NGOs Care Cambodia, Marie Stopes and Save the Children aim to expand reproductive, maternal and neonatal care.
“This is about saving mothers and babies through a strategic partnership,” Heidi Brown, director of the initiative’s coordination and learning unit, said.
Cambodia has among the worst maternal mortality rates in the region. At 250 women dying per 100,000 live births according to the 2013 State of the World Report, the number is nearly double the Kingdom’s 2015 Millennium Development Goal.
Cambodia’s child mortality rate also remains high compared to regional standards; over 50 children die daily from preventable diseases.
“We have not achieved our targets … yet, because some women are living in very remote areas, ethnic minorities, [and] migrant groups,” Eng Huot, secretary of state at the Ministry of Health, said.
One of the partnership’s main goals will be a push to address the shortage of trained health personnel. Almost half of the 360,000 births annually take place outside a health centre, and nearly a third lack a trained birth attendant.
“Our aim is to have a midwife in every health centre,” Brown said.
The partnership will also expand the number of health professionals licensed to provide legal abortions.
Although Cambodia legalised abortion in 1997, unsafe and black market abortion drugs still cause many maternal deaths, and NGOs have found women often go to a clinic only after having already unsuccessfully attempted an abortion on one or more occasions.
“In many cases women don’t know that legal, safe, and quality health services are available to them,” Stefanie Wallach, country director of Marie Stopes, said.