NGO Hails Historic Sale of Birth Control Pills

The sale of 1 million cycles of OK birth control pills was celebrated Friday as an opportunity for Cam­bodian women to have better lives.

Nearly 200 pharmacists from Phnom Penh and 18 provinces attended the ceremony organized by Population Services Inter­national, an NGO that distributes the OK pills, which were made available in September 1997, and the Number 1 condom brand in Cambodia.

“We are pleased because these sales of OK represent increased opportunity for Cambodian wo­men to plan their families, which in turn improves the health and well-being of all Cambodians,” said John Deidrick, country representative of PSI.

Like Number 1 condoms, the price of the OK pills is kept artificially low, sold for less than the pro­duction cost, to encourage people to use the product. One phar­macist, who sells the pills for 800 riel per package, said she doesn’t make much money from the pills, but sells them to help fam­ily-planning efforts.

Nuzhat Ehsan, deputy repre­sent­ative of the UN Population Fund, said sales of OK pills have helped save women’s lives, especially given the high ma­ternal mortality ratio in Cam­bodia.

Tep Lun, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Health, also said the pills have helped control Cambodia’s spiraling population, noting that the country’s 5.1 percent growth rate is one of the highest in Asia.

“PSI’s birth spacing program complements the efforts of the gov­ernment of Cambodia, thus helping to slow down the rapid birth rate as we work toward pov­erty reduction,” he said.

The celebration included an exhibition of PSI products and a television was awarded to Muong Phally, a pharmacist from Kom­pong Speu province, who sold the one millionth packet of OK pills.

So Seda, who runs the Mean Rith pharmacy in Siem Reap province, said use of OK pills is on the rise because people do not want to use condoms.

“Most people who use these pills are poor and don’t want any children because they need time for themselves to earn a living,” she said.

Doung Sunnarin, office manager for Save the Children UK, cautioned that OK pills help in family planning, but cannot protect against sexually transmitted diseases.


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