Cambodia expects rapid decline in maternal death rate by 2030

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Uong Chantha, 40, gave birth to her sixth child at Kampong Cham Referral Hospital. She is expecting to use a family planning method after this last child. Photo supplied

Maternal and newborn health is a top priority of the Cambodian government, with efforts having resulted in impressive gains in expanding the reach of services for maternal and newborn health. However, the maternal and newborn mortality rates remain a challenge for the country. The maternal mortality rate in Cambodia has been decreasing since 2005, from 472 deaths in every 100,000 live-births in 2005 to 170 deaths in every 100,000 live-births in 2014 [Cambodian Demographic and Health Survey – CDHS- 2014]. New data will be available in the coming CDHS in 2020.

According to Catherine Breen Kamkong, deputy representative of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), her organisation has been operational in Cambodia since 1994. UNFPA provides technical and financial assistance to the Ministry of Health in areas of sexual and reproductive health including family planning, skilled birth attendance, emergency obstetric and newborn care (EmONC), which are globally recognised as key interventions for reducing the maternal mortality rate. UNFPA provides technical and financial assistance to the Ministry of Health through the government systems and structure to reach health care providers and communities.

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The midwife, Ms Khoeub Kuntheary (left), hands over the baby to its mother after delivery in a room of Stung Treng referral hospital. Photo supplied

The key strategies have included expanding access to quality family planning; investments in the training of midwives and deployment across the country in health facilities; investments in establishing emergency obstetric and newborn care facilities with trained staff, drugs and equipment, and investments in expanding universal health coverage to ensure that the poor can also access quality sexual and reproductive health services.

“Since the government has introduced the midwifery incentive in 2007 and 2008, almost 90 percent of deliveries are with trained health staff, the majority with midwives,” UNFPA’s Catherine wrote by email. “Traditional birth attendants are not midwives. Traditional birth attendants have shifted their roles from assisting delivery to supporting and accompanying pregnant women to seek services at public health facilities.”

UNFPA is currently implementing its fifth country programme, from 2016-2018, with the Royal Government of Cambodia, and is in the process of developing a new-five year programme from 2019 to 2023.

“UNFPA expects to contribute to improving sexual reproductive health and reproductive rights and further reduction of MMR in line with the Sustainable Development Goals 2030 target of 70 deaths to every 100,000 live births,” she wrote.

“UNFPA works to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every child birth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled. It is their goal to support Cambodia to bring the maternal mortality rate down to zero. No women should die giving birth to a new life.”