The contribution of midwives to Cambodia’s maternal and infant health was praised by the government as the Kingdom celebrated the National Day of Midwife on Sunday.
Prime Minister Hun Sen issued a sub-decree in 2008, designating May 5 as the National Day of Midwife – in conjunction with the International Midwives’ Day.
In a statement issued on Thursday, the Ministry of Health highlighted the midwives’ contribution in strengthening the Kingdom’s health sector and achieving “major goals” for Cambodia in the past decade.
It said this year’s Midwives’ Day was celebrated under the theme of Midwives are the Women Rights Defender, where midwives’ duties in ensuring every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled were underlined.
“The accomplishment of Cambodia’s sustainable development goals depends on the commitments from the midwives and other health professionals, especially those who serve on the frontline,” the statement read.
The ministry said that midwives enabled women to make informed decisions as to their sex lives, including providing family planning consultations and the right health services “without discriminating against any patients regardless of their social status”.
“The midwives are also responsible for providing a safe and comfortable environment, both physically and emotionally; dignity; and positive experiences, during the pregnancy and delivery processes,” the statement said.
The Ministry further stressed that the Kingdom’s midwives played a vital role in reducing the maternal and infant mortality rates and in achieving “the fourth and fifth UN Millennium Development Goals”.
“We would not be able to accomplish major goals and ensure the lives [of mothers and newborns] without the contribution of midwives. I take this opportunity to appreciate and send my gratitude for the important work of midwives who have been continuously working to benefit the nation,” Health Minister Mam Bun Heng said in the statement.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the head of a health centre in Banteay Meanchey province said that most of the midwives in her facility have been “fully trained”.
However, she argued that her midwifery team is constantly facing significant “obstacles”, such as “shortages of equipment and resources” and “people’s limited awareness of maternal and infant health”.
Moreover, she said the centre does not receive “sufficient support” from their local partners.
“We have patients who do not understand [about maternal and infant health], and at the same time, development partners such as civil society organisations and the like do not provide us with enough support,” she said.
According to the Ministry of Health, as of the end of 2017, there were 7,082 registered midwives across Cambodia, 6,391 of whom worked in the public sector.
Reports have shown a decline in infant mortality, particularly in the last decade.
World Health Organisation (WHO) representative to Cambodia Kumanan Rasanathan said in December that the mortality rate among children under five declined in 2017 to 29 per 1,000, compared to 31 per 1,000 in 2016.
The infant mortality rate also fell to 15 per 1,000 in the same year, he noted, citing an official report of the UN Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation.
Rasanathan said Cambodia is on track to reach its goal of reducing maternal and child mortality rates, as laid out in its five-year action plan, aiming to reduce the infant mortality rate to 14 per 1,000 by 2020.