UN Report Disputes Child Mortality Figures

A UN report released Tuesday said the mortality rate for children younger than 5 has in­creased, contradicting Ministry of Health figures released last year claiming the rate had decreased.

The UN figures, taken from the World Bank estimates in 2001, showed 138 deaths per 1,000 children under age 5, up from 115 deaths in 1990, the report stated.

A National Health Survey released by the Ministry of Health last year said 95.6 of every 1,000 children died before age 5, down from 124 deaths cited in a 2000 Cambodia Demographic Health Survey.

“The reason for the difference between the government figures and others is because the UN will come into the country and assess which are the most reliable numbers,” said Damian Kean, information officer at the UN Develop­ment Program country office. “In this case, they decided the World Bank’s estimates were more accurate.”

Mean Chhi Vun, deputy director general of health at the Minis­try of Health, challenged the UN’s claims, saying he believed that the numbers from his ministry’s survey are more accurate.

Reducing child mortality by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015 is one of eight development goals listed in the Millennium Dec­laration, which all UN member states agreed to three years ago, the UN said in a statement issued at the launch of the 2003 Global Human Development Report. Under the Millennium Develop­ment targets, the statement said, Cambodia should re­duce under-5 deaths to 76.6 per 1,000 by 2015, a goal “now in danger of not being achieved in Cam­bodia.”

The UN pinned the rise in child deaths on worsening health care, high rates of AIDS and increasing inequity between men and wo­men and between rural and ur­ban residents.

A Ministry of Health official who requested to remain anonymous said that diarrhea, acute respiratory infections and the six vaccine-preventable diseases—particularly tetanus and meas­les—are responsible for more than half of child deaths. Deficien­cies in micro-nutrients, vitamin A, iron and iodine are widespread and considered a public health problem, the official said. Only

13 percent of health workers are located in rural areas, where more than 80 percent of the population lives, the report said.


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