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Mixed bag of health: report

A pregnant patient makes a follow-up appointment after receiving maternity care at a women’s clinic in Phnom Penh in July.
A pregnant patient makes a follow-up appointment after receiving maternity care at a women’s clinic in Phnom Penh in July. KARA FOX

Mixed bag of health: report

Cambodia is making headway on its 2015 Millennium Development Goal to improve maternal health and is ahead of its target to reduce its under-five child mortality rate, but it still lags behind neighbouring countries, the 2013 State of the World Population Report has revealed.

Released yesterday, the report shows that Cambodia has already exceeded its 2015 goal of reducing under-five child mortality from 124 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1998 to 65.

The number dropped to 51 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2010, but is still much higher than neighbours Vietnam (20) and Thailand (12).

Maternal mortality in Cambodia still remains high at 250 deaths per 100,000 live births, or almost twice the 140 MDG target, and almost four times higher than Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia.

Only Laos exceeds the toll reached in Cambodia.

The report also looks at the challenges of teen pregnancy.

About 7.3 million underage girls face teen pregnancy globally each year, but the report shows that only 8 per cent of Cambodian females aged 15 to 19 are sexually active.

The report finds that contraceptive prevalence in the Kingdom is low, with only 35 per cent of women aged 15-49 using any modern method of birth control, the second lowest in the region after Malaysia.

National attitudes regarding young pregnancy need to change, according to Marc Derveeuw of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFP).

“Sexual activity is directly linked to age and marriage, which is an attitude in Cambodia that has not been changing. When young women marry here, contraceptives are often not used or discussed. Women get married here and are expected to immediately start having children,” Derveeuw said yesterday.

The report looks at ways to reduce the prevalence of adolescent mothers, including improving maternal health, girls’ access to education, contraceptives and sexual and reproductive health services.

Oukvong Vathiny, executive director of the Reproductive Health Association of Cambodia (RHAC), said yesterday that bolstering female empowerment and access to education was paramount

to changing women’s access to information.

“We need to change this country’s mindset about sex among youth if we want to make any leeway,” Vathiny said, noting that exposure to media often increases the use of contraceptives among youth.