C AMBODIA ranks in the world's lowest tier of nations in its achievements in
health, nutrition and other measures of social progress, according to
Unicef's "Progress of Nations 1995" report released last month,
surveying health, education and family issues, says Cambodia ranks with Myanmar,
Afghanistan and several African countries such as Burundi, Somalia, Rwanda and
Zaire in polio eradication. Some 300 polio cases of polio are reported a year
Unicef applauded Cambodia's two National Immunization Days earlier
this year but said at least two more need to be held in 1996 and 1997 to
eradicate the polio virus, provided a suitable surveillance system can be set up
to ascertain that no new cases are being reported.
Resistance to measles,
diarrhoeal diseases and respiratory diseases is improving, but not nearly
adequate, Unicef says. Although 55 percent of children under one are getting
immunized against measles, the rate of measles is "still high" with 200 cases
reported per 1,000 children under five years old.
and diarrhoeal diseases constitute 50 percent of medical treatment for children
under five. The report says the Ministry of Health has established in Phnom Penh
a National Diarrhea Treatment Unit, and programs are being set up in the
provinces as well. "Yet much remains to be done to inform parents about the use
of Oral Rehydration Therapy at home when their child gets diarrhea."
report measures several other areas of social progress.
Thirty six percent of Cambodians have access to safe water. That is about equal
to Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar, but far below the rest of Asia except Papua New
Guinea and Afghanistan. The definition of "safe water" can vary from piped water
in each home, to a clean well within a half hour walk.
deficiency: Cambodia recognizes that Vitamin A deficiency exists as a public
health problem, but the incidence among children under five is well above the
public health standard. Programs are being implemented to make vitamin A
supplements available to health facilities, but the present coverage is
inadequate. Two cent capsules - or a better diet of leafy greens and carrots -
could wipe out the deficiency, which can lead to blindness.
deficiency: Unicef recommends that all countries put iodine in their edible salt
to prevent iodine deficiency, which can cause mental impairment. Cambodia has no
such program but the Unicef report says steps are underway to assess the
deficiency and the salt supply and consumption in the country.
rates: As a result of family planning education and availability of birth
control, the number of children per woman has been declining slightly in most of
the world over the last 30 years. Cambodia's fertility rate of 6.3 children per
woman in 1964 has declined by just 1.1 percent. That is the lowest rate of
decline of all of the East Asia and Pacific countries except Laos, where the 6.2
children per woman rate has actually increased slightly.