The health-care budget needs more money, according to representatives at the 20th Annual Health Congress held by the Ministry of Health this week.
“Funding for the social sector has been a recurring problem,” Leonard De Vos, a representative from Unicef, said Tuesday, “Decreasing military spending and implementing administrative reform will help.”
According to conference attendees, adequate funding is the most effective way to improve the health of the Cambodia’s population.
The World Health Organization representative, Dr Georg Petersen, complained that the government budget to support health was too low. Health-care facilities also have had difficulty accessing the funds they were promised, leaving them without resources to care for the sick.
The new budget for 1999, which has not yet been approved by the National Assembly, promises a 28-percent increase in health spending to 80,116 million riel ($21.2 million).
This year, however, health projects have not gotten all the money they were promised. According to government figures, the health sector received about 8,000 million riel ($2 million) less than the 62,364 million riel ($16.5 million) it was promised for 1998.
Petersen did acknowledge that there had been some improvements. The health-care system was in a “state of collapse” several years ago, he said, but there has been dramatic progress in fighting polio, tuberculosis and malaria.
The mortality rate for women and children from malnutrition and other diseases, however, is still high when compared with other Asian countries, he said.
Officials also said that the HIV infection rate in Cambodia is accelerating. Cambodia has the highest prevalence of HIV in Asia and will get worse, De Vos said.