Health Ministry Launches New Office to Monitor Maternal Deaths

In an effort to learn more about the underlying causes of maternal deaths, of which Cambodia has the one of the worst records in the region, the Ministry of Health yesterday launched a new office tasked with collecting information on why Cambodian women die during pregnancy or childbirth.

Dubbed the Maternal Death Surveillance Room, the office will record instances of maternal deaths that are reported by the public and health officials throughout Cambodia, according to Lo Veasnakiry, director of the ministry’s Department of Planning and Health Information.

He said family members or medical personnel can contact the office or send an e-mail and, once the office is aware of the death, local government health facilities will follow-up and investigate the circumstances.

“The relevant health institutions will conduct an investigation to clarify the maternal death case reported in their jurisdiction,” Mr Veasnakiry said yesterday during a ceremony for the office’s opening.

He added the new office would also issue weekly and quarterly reports on its findings as well as offering policy recommendations based on its results.

Health Minister Mam Bun Heng urged the public to help out in the database’s mission, saying it would be used as a learning tool and not to penalize staff.

“To help mothers’ health, we encourage the public to work together,” the minister said. “Because the establishment of this Maternal Death Surveillance Room is not aiming to punish anybody when there is a maternal death.”

He said in 2008 Cambodia saw 461 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, still a ways off from its revised 2015 target of 250 deaths per 100,000 live births as set by the UN Millennium Development Goals.

Deputy director of the National Maternal and Child Health Center Tung Rathavy said, however, Cambodia has come a long way from its 1990 maternal mortality rate of 900 deaths per 100,000 live births.

She said the leading causes of death in and following childbirth are hemorrhaging, infections, botched abortions, ruptured uteri and eclampsia, a pregnancy complication characterized by convulsions.


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