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Women's group reports concern over health conditions in Cambodia

Women's group reports concern over health conditions in Cambodia

There has been no improvement in Cambodia's health situation over the past two years,

according to the American Women's Commission. A four-member delegation from that

organization was recently here for 10 days to access the country's health problems,

then offer suggestions on how to correct them.

Focusing primarily on mother-and-child health in the two remaining Cambodian refugee

camps, Site 2 and Khao-i-Dang, the delegation came up with a long list of problems,

and an even longer list of suggestions.

"Infant mortality in Cambodia is still one of the highest in the world,"

reported the delegation, "with one in five children dying before the age of

five ... Tuberculosis also remains a major health threat." Regarding AIDS and

other sexually transmitted diseases, Dr. Patricia Walker, co-chair of the delegation,

said, "I think Cambodia is now in the early stages of what could be an epidemic."

She then talked about the country's rapidly expanding sex industry, and called for

"an immediate end to the exploitative trade in women."

Other items of concern listed in the delegation's report include the malnutrition

and stunted growth of Cambodian village children, a lack of emphasis in the country

on educating women, and an insufficient number of trained medical personnel at the

border camps.

The delegation also commented on broader health-related topics. Among these were

the importance of supplying provisions of clean water - "the basis of good health,"

and the need for removing mines from the country. "It is important, for example,

to return the 20 percent of Battambang that is mined, to agricultural use,"

said Dr. Anne Goldfeld, another co-chair of the delegation.

Their report suggested getting rid of the mines through increased funding of the

CMAC (Cambodian Mine Action Center). To solve or limit the other health problems,

recommendations were made to slow the pace of the final repatriation of those remaining

in the camps to allow UNHCR to easier relocate returnees; develop widespread family-planning

programs; commit significant resources to expanding human-rights issues in educational

curriculums; continue a UN presence after the May elections; and encourage the participation

of Cambodian NGOs (non-governmental organizations) in the country's development.

As to where the money would come from to pay for all of this, Walker responded, "We

recommend that the US $880 million pledged at the June 1992 Tokyo Conference be spent

now." With only US $95 million of the pledged money disbursed, she said, "Donors

are hedging their bets, and while they do this, Cambodians are dying. But without

peace and security, none of our recommendations can be acted upon."

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