Child health care has improved markedly in Cambodia since 2000, according to the results of a long-anticipated national health survey released by the government Thursday.
In 2000, 95 out of 1,000 babies died before their first birthday. In 2005, the figure had dropped to an average of 65 infant deaths, according to the survey, which was conducted by the National Institute of Public Health and the National Institute of Statistics.
The survey also found that compared to 2000, when 124 out of 1,000 children did not live to see their fifth birthday, in 2005, an average of 83 died before reaching five.
“We have really focused our efforts on the issue of child and maternal health, and our cooperation has really worked,” Health Minister Nuth Sokhom said by telephone.
He said the drop was achieved by increasing access to health centers and raising the number of visits by health officials to provinces.
But the minister said much work remained. “There are more challenges ahead to meet Cambodia’s Millennium Development Goals,” he said.
To meet its 2015 Millennium Development Goals, Cambodia must still reduce the death rate to 50 infant deaths per 1,000 births and 65 deaths per 1,000 for children under the age of five.
Dr Sin Somuny, director of the health NGO Medicam, cautioned that the new figures are not necessarily cause for celebration.
“These results do not mean that Cambodia now has very good child and infant mortality rates,” he remarked. In Vietnam, the number for under-five mortality is around 30 per 1,000 births and in Thailand it is lower. We are still not doing well compared to our neighbors,” he said.
He also questioned a statistic in the new survey which suggests 60 percent of women are exclusively breastfeeding children under six months, up from only 10 percent five years earlier.
But the other findings reflect improvements he has noticed around the country, he said.
“There has been a lot of effort to get out into the communities,” he said, adding that every year, more of the national budget has been spent on health care.
The government survey, supported by the UN, Britain and the US, sampled 14,243 households from September 2005 until March. The survey shows a decline in the fertility rate from four children per woman to 3.4, and an increase in contraceptive use from 10 percent to 22 percent.
The percentage of women receiving antenatal care has increased from 38 percent to 69 percent.
The number of children too short for their age has decreased from 45 percent to 37 percent, and the number too thin has declined from 15 percent to 7 percent, according to the survey.