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World Bank touts health advances

People wait outside Phnom Penh’s Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospital in November. According to a report, the number of babies delivered by maternity professionals doubled over the past seven years.
People wait outside Phnom Penh’s Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospital in November. According to a report, the number of babies delivered by maternity professionals doubled over the past seven years. Pha Lina

World Bank touts health advances

The proportion of Cambodian babies delivered by trained professionals in health centres has doubled over the past seven years, according to the World Bank, though one observer yesterday cautioned that the fight against maternal and infant mortality was hardly won.

In 2008 only 39 per cent of Cambodian women gave birth in a hospital or clinic compared to 80 per cent last year, the bank revealed on Friday in the results of its Second Health Sector Project which was designed to help implement the government’s 2008-2015 health strategic plan.

Dr Ping Chutema, director of clinical services at Reproductive Health Association of Cambodia (RHAC), said the figures were promising and no doubt led to a drop in maternal and infant mortality rates, though roadblocks to maternal health persisted.

“There are so many barriers that prevent people from going to the hospital, especially in rural areas,” Dr Chutema said. “The main problems are they are living far away from the hospital, the road is not good, the transport is not good, and there may be an economic problem.”

“It is hard for poor people to stay at hospital for long when they feel they need to go home and take care of the children and their husband, so 20 per cent of women deliver at home.”

In its statement, the World Bank also claimed to have helped increase the rate of infants immunised against diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus and hepatitis to 98 per cent, from 84 per cent in 2008.

However, the percentage of children who received Vitamin A supplement doses dropped from 89 per cent to 77 per cent, despite the project’s 96 per cent target.

The bank also touted the fact that 100 per cent of Cambodia’s poor were covered by the Health Equity Fund, a World Bank-assisted scheme that subsidises the costs of treatment, compared to 57 per cent in 2008.

“By the end of 2015, the health equity fund enabled access to a defined package of health, nutrition or reproductive services for more than 8.46 million visits to a health facility for medical care,” said the statement of results.

However, only 88 per cent of referral hospitals in the Kingdom actually implement Health Equity Funds, despite all impoverished Cambodians being entitled to the scheme.

As the fund is not delivered across the whole country, that could hamper Cambodians’ access to adequate health care, said Dr Chutema.

The World Bank did not respond to requests for comment as of press time.

The Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization could not be reached for comment.

This article has been updated to reflect a World Bank revision to its statement on the Second Health Sector Project.

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