The government and World Health Organisation (WHO) on World Health Day – themed “Health for All” this year – on April 7 celebrated the Kingdom’s many health success stories and the 75th anniversary of the UN agency’s founding.

Since joining the WHO in 1950 as an associated state of the French Union, Cambodia and the UN agency have become partners in health, working to make the Kingdom a safer and healthier country for all.

“Cambodia has achieved significant health outcomes in the past decades that have changed many people's lives for the better,” said the state-run Agence Kampuchea Presse (AKP), citing a “joint press release”.

“Life expectancy has risen dramatically in Cambodia and as of 2021-2022 was 76 years … Nearly all – 99 per cent – women now give birth with a skilled health provider, an increase from just over one in three women in 2000.

“Neonatal and under five mortality rates have rapidly declined over the past two decades, from 37 to eight and 124 to 16 per 1,000 live births, respectively. This included an over 50 per cent decrease between 2014 and 2021-2022 alone, far faster than global averages, and meeting the Cambodian Sustainable Development Goals [CSDGs] eight years ahead of schedule.

“Cambodia successfully eradicated polio in 1997 and has achieved significant progress in preventing, controlling, and eliminating other communicable diseases. The number of reported falciparum malaria cases is at its lowest ever, and it has been five years since [a] malaria [death] was last recorded in 2018.

“The rates of tuberculosis incidence and mortality have decreased by around 50 per cent from 2000 to 2021, and Cambodia achieved the reduction of global AIDS targets ahead of schedule.

“Over the past decade, Cambodia effectively prepared for, and responded to, health security threats and emergencies, particularly the Covid-19 pandemic, through the strengthening of its surveillance and response systems, laboratory capacity, and public health and social measures.

“In particular, Cambodia achieved high Covid-19 vaccination coverage whilst still maintaining essential health services and delivered effective mental health and psychosocial support where it was needed during this heightened time of stress and crisis,” the outlet said.

AKP quoted WHO representative to Cambodia Li Ailan as saying: “This World Health Day, we congratulate the Royal Government of Cambodia on its remarkable success in improving the health and wellbeing of Cambodians and in leading the way towards ‘Health for All’.

“I am proud that WHO has been a trusted partner with the Royal Government of Cambodia and the people of Cambodia in this success.

“Cambodia has made extraordinary efforts in ensuring sustained management of Covid-19, including through local preparedness and a successful vaccination rollout.

“WHO is grateful [for] the Royal Government of Cambodia's strong leadership, and its commitment to invest in health for future social and economic development in Cambodia,” she added.

Citing a recent National Health Congress, AKP added that the Kingdom “is rapidly developing, and people's demand for health services will continue to grow.

“Non-communicable diseases – NCDs – are rising and now cause an estimated two-thirds of the country's deaths, and it will be important to strengthen [NCD] prevention and control, and to address the needs of a future ageing population,” it said.

Meanwhile, the government and a national UN working group have also been discussing moving towards a universal healthcare system and expanding the scope of social protections, which are seen as key to achieving the CSDGs.

“We are committed to ensuring that no one is left behind without access to health care … Cambodia is moving towards such a bright future,” Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng affirmed in a statement.

With the WHO’s technical support, Cambodia forges ahead to improve basic health care, the foundation of universal health coverage, which would ensure a healthy and safe future for all Cambodians, he said.