The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) marked the official June 21 closure of the joint project “Building resilient healthcare systems during the Covid-19 pandemic through enhancing life-saving services and digital transformation in Cambodia”. An event was held to recognise the support given by the Japanese government during the pandemic.

The project was launched in May 2022, with funding of over $1 million from Japan, through the UNFPA in Cambodia.

According to the UNFPA, the project created timely opportunities to work closely with the ministries of Health; Education, Youth and Sport; and Women’s Affairs.

In a June 21 press release, the UNFPA said the project was developed in response to the pandemic, by working closely with key ministries to come up with innovative solutions on how to continue lifesaving sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) quality services, information and support.

It explained that activities undertaken by the project included increased life-saving skills training for midwives, as well as for healthcare providers to be able to share information and provide treatment online through various digital platforms, including e-learning and telemedicine.

It added that for young people and those experiencing violence, other innovations were developed including a youth mobile app, and a “Chatbot” mechanism which is currently being tested for persons who experience violence.

“These mechanisms provided information, care and support to women, youth, survivors of violence, and families in Cambodia during the pandemic, and will continue to benefit them after the project is over,” it continued.

The project partnership contributed towards training and lifesaving equipment that would ensure that women delivering children during and post-pandemic could do so safely. The project increased the number of healthcare workers who can now tap into online learning, virtual healthcare and advanced skills for emergencies during childbirth.

The press release added that this expansion in training ensured that mothers and their newborns receive the highest quality of care, even when conditions are tough. It also guarantees that medical teams are more prepared and skilled than ever before to handle emergencies when caring for pregnant women and their babies.

According to the UNFPA, two additional innovative technical solutions to connect people with information and services were also developed. The Youth Health Mobile App is a free app that provides young people with access to sexual and reproductive health information and services. Since its launch in early 2023, it has been accessed by over 45,000 users.

“The app has the potential to increase access to a wide range of SRHR information and services for young people, particularly those who may not have other means of accessing this information. The second innovation is a Chatbot auto-responder for gender-based violence [GBV] survivors which is currently being developed. The Chatbot will be able to answer questions about GBV and harassment, provide resources and referrals, and connect survivors with a qualified healthcare professional and social services needed,” it said.

Sandra Bernklau, UNFPA representative to Cambodia, said the timely assistance provided will ultimately make childbirth safer for women in Cambodia.

“These mechanisms will continue to benefit women and families in Cambodia long after this project is over,” she explained.

“We commend the health ministry for their leadership in managing Covid-19. We are pleased that this project has put in place sustainable mechanisms, including e-learning, telemedicine, the youth mobile app and the GBV Chatbot Auto-responder, to provide information, care and support to those in need,” she added.

Health ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine thanked the Japanese government for supporting this project. She believed the project will help to ensure that the Cambodian people have access to quality health services, regardless of where they live.

“Thanks to cohesive and comprehensive strategies and interventions, including early detection and response, a strong public health infrastructure and community engagement, we have been able to keep the Covid-19 situation under control,” she said.

“We are committed to building on this success and ensuring that Cambodia is well-prepared to respond to future health challenges,” she added.