Unicef and German development organization GIZ on Wednesday handed over equipment worth $500,000 to rural health centers in a bid to improve maternal and newborn health.
The equipment, which includes ultrasound scanners, fetal heart detectors and instruments for surgical delivery, will benefit 300,000 women in Kompong Thom, Kampot and Kep provinces, Unicef said Wednesday.
In Cambodia, about 30 percent of births are not attended by skilled health personnel, 250 out of every 100,000 women die during child labor, and 69 children per 1,000 live births die before reaching the age of 5, according to figures from the U.N. Population Fund.
“Limited resources—human and financial—continue to be a major constraint to scale-up essential and life-saving health interventions to reduce maternal mortality,” Eng Huot, secretary of state for the Ministry of Health, said at the handover ceremony.
“While Cambodia has made good progress with reducing maternal and child mortality, three out of four newborn deaths occur in their first week of life, especially during the first day, largely due to complications and lack of postpartum care,” Unicef said in a statement.
Health experts said besides the lack of equipment, many midwives are also poorly trained and rural health facilities are often not built with mothers and newborns in mind.
“When the Ministry of Health designed the health facility they made no room for women to stay after delivery. If there is no room, they go home, where they die from postpartum hemorrhage,” internal bleeding after delivery that is the most common cause of death, said Chan Theary, executive director of the Reproductive and Child Health Alliance (RACHA).
With about 60 health centers in Kampot province, for example, and only one hospital, most women there are more likely to seek treatment at a nearby health center, she said, adding that the smaller ones are unable to handle emergency cases.
We have to make sure that midwives know when they have to refer an emergency case to the provincial hospital, and that [the women] get there fast enough,” she said. RACHA has contracted people who own transportation in rural areas to be on call in such situations, Ms. Theary added.