Marked Progress in Child Health Since 2000: Gov’t

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.


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