Voluntary Sterilization Program Is Lagging

The government so far is fall­ing short of its goal to have a portion of the population voluntarily sterilized by 2005, a health official said Thursday.

Dr Marcel Reyners, a reproduction health adviser for the Repro­ductive and Child Health Alliance, said the government has established a goal of 5 percent of married women and 2 percent of married men sterilized by 2005. “It’s not possible to realize this at the pace we are going now,” he said.

Advocates of voluntary sterilization say that it is a useful tool to improving health and reducing poverty, especially in rural areas.

Speakers Thursday referred to people who elect to be sterilized as “users” and “acceptors,” depic­ting the issue as merely a health concern. Mark White, director of the US Agency for International Develop­ment’s office of public health in Cambodia, which is largely funding the project, stressed that sterilization was performed only on people who knew the risks and benefits of the pro­cedure and other birth control techniques. The procedure is for couples who already have children, he said.

While 1.5 percent of married Cambodian women have undergone voluntary sterilization since 1997, when Cambodia received overseas funding for the procedure, White said another 15 percent are interested in the procedure, which White called “a serious unmet perceived need.” He said 19 clinics in the country currently can sterilize either sex.

Doctors and health care professionals attending Thursday’s conference generally favored ac­cess to voluntary sterilization. Dr Ou Sary of Kompong Trach district Referral Hospital in Kampot province said that although his hospital does not offer the procedure, “I want people in urban and remote areas to select [voluntary sterilization] when she or he has too many children.”

Dr Eng Huot, director-general of health promotion at the Min­istry of Health, also supported the program, calling it “a good procedure, particularly for poor people living in remote areas.”

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