Almost 150 women died before, while or after giving birth this year according to nationwide data collected by the Health Ministry’s Maternal Death Surveillance Room, health officials said.
But the number of cases reported to the Health Ministry remained at odds with estimates from the UN Children’s Fund, which show that between 1,200 to 2,200 maternal deaths occur in Cambodia each year.
From January to the first week of October, 149 maternal deaths were reported by both public health facilities and community members, said Dr Khol Khemrary, bureau chief of the Health Ministry’s Health Information System.
“The number is higher than last year because we have the Maternal Death Surveillance Room that can be given information about maternal death,” Dr Khemrary said. “If anyone knows a mother who died they will call.”
The office was launched in February to learn more about the underlying causes of maternal death, of which Cambodia has one of the worst records in the region.
A UNDP report released last month stated that Cambodia remained “off track” in its efforts to improve maternal health, one of nine UN Millenium Development Goals the country is trying to meet by 2015.
According to a breakdown of the Heath Ministry’s statistics for the first half of the year, 30 women died during pregnancy, 19 while delivering, 40 in the six weeks after delivery and 2 after abortions.
The maternal deaths reported to the Health Ministry, which include very few that occurred at home or private facilities, did not represent the total number of women dying, said Viorica Berdaga, chief of Unicef’s Child Survival and Development program.
“It reflects only a part of them, but it is difficult to estimate the exact proportion,” Ms Berdaga said, noting that there were an estimated 360,000 child deliveries per year in Cambodia.
The absence of a well-functioning civil registration system in Cambodia means maternal mortality is measured through national surveys with 461 deaths per 100,000 live births recorded in the 2008 census.
Sharon Wilkinson, country director of Care International in Cambodia, said that a shortage in midwives in rural areas endangers women, with many bleeding to death while giving birth, or dying from infection afterwards.