With five women dying in childbirth every day, Cambodia has made no progress in lowering its maternal mortality rate, according to the country’s top UN official.
Speaking Thursday at a forum on the role of Parliament in achieving the country’s nine Millenium Development Goals, which Cambodia committed to in 2000, UN Resident Coordinator Douglas Broderick said Cambodia has the third highest maternal death rate in Southeast Asia, with only Laos and East Timor faring worse.
“Five women a day die in Cambodia giving life,” Broderick said.
According to figures provided at the forum, there are 472 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in Cambodia, the same rate as almost nine years ago.
“No progress has been seen on the maternal health rate since 2000,” Broderick said.
Te Kuyseang, secretary of state for the Ministry of Health, who also attended the forum, said by telephone that the government is working to improve maternal health, but lacks the funds to do so.
“It is work and it needs a lot of money,” he said, but added that he did not know how much money would be needed to reduce Cambodia’s high maternal mortality death rate.
His ministry plans to add 300 more midwives this year to the 3,000 already in the country and build rooms at existing health centers specifically for pregnant women.
When asked why maternal health has not improved, Te Kuyseang said: “Our country is a developing country so we have to do things step by step and it takes time.”
In 2000, 190 countries, including Cambodia, signed on to the Millenium Development Goals. As well as promising to improve maternal health, Cambodia agreed to try to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education, reduce child mortality, combat HIV/AIDS and other diseases, ensure environmental sustainability, develop a global partnership for development and focus on demining efforts.
Cambodia also agreed to promote gender equality and empower women, a goal that Broderick said has seen mixed results.
Although “there’s increased representation of women in decision making at all levels,” discrimination continues and Cambodia ranks low on international measures of gender equality, he said.
“Violence against women is unacceptably high,” he continued. “One in 10 women report experiencing domestic violence.”
However, Broderick was upbeat about Cambodia’s progress towards reaching some of the development goals, saying “Cambodia has already made some significant achievements.”
He cited, for example, the decline in the prevalence of HIV/AIDS from 2 percent in 1998 to 0.9 percent in 2007.
“Cambodia is one of the few countries in the world on track for HIV and AIDS,” he said.