The UN Population Fund is expected to sign off today on a deal to fund a five-year, $11.5 million program aimed at improving women’s reproductive health and access to birth control in Cambodia, UNPF officials said Tuesday.
The Population Fund estimates that more than 2,000 Cambodian women die yearly from abortion- or pregnancy-related problems, although exact figures are hard to determine. “Most women die unknown,” Deputy Representative Nushat Ehsan said. “They have home delivery, and [the cause of death] is not documented.”
Backyard abortions and the absence of trained midwives and doctors are major factors, Ehsan said. “There just aren’t services,” he said. “There’s no coverage. There aren’t enough hospitals providing safe deliveries.”
Multiple pregnancies increase risks. Cambodian women have an average of 5.3 children each, the second highest rate in Southeast Asia, according to the 1998 census. In 2000, 19 percent of Cambodian women were using modern contraceptives, well short of the government’s goal of 30 percent, according to the Population Fund.
The program, an extension of a three-year project started in 1997, will pay to train health care workers around the country and provide modern contraceptives.