Cambodia has the second highest maternal mortality rate in Southeast Asia with an estimated 540 maternal deaths per 100,000 births, according to a new report released October 12.
Laos has the highest maternal mortality rate in Southeast Asia with 660 maternal deaths per 100,000 births, while Brunei has the lowest with 13, according to the Maternal Mortality in 2005 report, compiled by the UN Children’s Fund, the UN Population Fund, the World Health Organization, and the World Bank.
The report, which is issued every five years, states that one out of 48 potential mothers in Cambodia have a lifetime risk of dying due to birth related complications, more than double the risk mothers in Burma face with a ratio of one in 110.
Overall, the report said, the world’s maternal mortality ratio—or number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births—is declining too slowly to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals.
“[A]t the global level, maternal mortality has decreased at an average of less than one percent annually between 1990 and 2005—far below the 5.5 percent annual decline, which is necessary to achieve the fifth MDG,” the report states.
Sin Somuny, executive director for MEDiCAM, an umbrella organization for health related NGOs in Cambodia, said that the findings highlight the need to improve the country’s health system.
One contributing factor to Cambodia’s high maternal mortality rate is the lack of skilled birth professionals, he said, adding that only 44 percent of newborns are delivered by skilled birth attendants.
Many deaths occur from complications during pregnancy and delivery that could be avoided by an increase in emergency medical services, he said.
“There is a need for more skilled midwives,” Sin Somuny said.
The Ministry of Health is trying to encourage mothers to seek proper medical care during childbirth as well as offering special monetary incentives for midwives, he said.
“The Ministry of Health and health partners understand the challenges,” he added.