Cambodia’s efforts to reduce mother and child deaths have led to the country’s inclusion in a study of 10 low- and middle-income countries identified as having had particular success in tackling mortality rates.
Along with China, Laos, Vietnam and several others, Cambodia was included in a study by the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health, led by the World Health Organization (WHO), to pinpoint the factors that helped the countries improve.
Better education, nutrition and improved water and sanitation were listed as among the factors identified as being crucial in Cambodia by the authors report, Success Factors For Women’s and Children’s Health.
According to national health statistics cited in the study, the mortality rate for children under 5 years old in Cambodia fell 57 percent between 1995 and 2010, from 127 to 54 per 1,000 live births.
And in the period between 1990 and 2010, the maternal mortality rate dropped 75 percent, from 830 to 206 per 100,000 live births.
Health Minister Mam Bunheng said the improvements were due partly to strong coordination between different government ministries.
“This has helped ensure that development partners align with government priorities and plans and has also contributed to increased resource allocation and action in maternal and child health,” he said in a joint statement released by the WHO and the government Friday.
Sonny Krishnan, an advocacy and communications officer for the WHO in Cambodia, said that a government incentive scheme launched in late 2007 that encouraged midwives and doctors to promote deliveries in public hospitals was having a large impact.
“It’s important because it’s the next generation of the country, so we need to focus on this, especially on the area of under-fives and nutrition, which is very much related to their development needs,” he said.
However, the report says that the rate of newborn mortality had lagged considerably, to the point that in 2010, newborn deaths represented half of all under-five deaths.
“A high proportion of newborn deaths occur around delivery and in the first 24 hours of life, highlighting the challenge of delivering effective interventions to mothers and newborns during delivery and in the early postnatal period,” the report stated.
Furthermore, it added that: “Mortality declines are much slower among the poor, less educated and rural populations—and this equity gap remains an important challenge.”
Mr. Krishnan said that there was more work to be done, especially among migrant and indigenous communities.
“There’s still a long way to go, but I think Cambodia is on the right path,” he said. “The biggest issue now is health equity, to ensure that the poor are getting access to health services.”