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Campaign Begins for Improved Child Health

Health officials gathered in Kampong Speu province to educate Cambodians on how to fight child mortality.

Health officials gathered in Kampong Speu province to educate Cambodians on how to fight child mortality.

Unicef and the Cambodian government have launched a campaign to promote better health for children and newborns. Cambodia has made some progress improving the health of women and children, but a high rate of death for children remains a major concern.

It saw its newborn mortality rate drop from 27 deaths per 1,000 live births to just 18.

Despite a great reduction in recent years, to 18 deaths per 1,000 live births, “there are still too many children who die too young, needlessly,” says Rana Flowers, a Unicef representative in Cambodia.

Some 200 health officials joined Unicef for the launch of a new initiative to improve that rate. The campaign will focus on Phnom Penh, as well as the provinces of Kampong Speu, Kampong Thom, Kratie, Stung Treng, Mondolkiri, Ratanakkiri and Preah Vihear—which have the highest rates of child mortality.

The campaign will include public service announcements to improve parents’ awareness of pneumonia and other illnesses.

Meas Bunly, a communication specialist for Unicef, said the campaign aims to improve survival rates by promoting the appropriate care for children. It will be aimed at mothers and caregivers, to help them understand childhood illnesses, help them prevent or treat them and encourage them to use health care centers and hospitals, especially when they recognize signs of pneumonia, like coughing and hard, rapid breathing.

Pneumonia is a leading cause of death for children under five, and especially for children in the first month of life.

“Every day an estimated 35 children die before their fifth birthday as a result of preventable and treatable disease, such as pneumonia and diarrhea,” Flowers said.

In a Unicef survey last year, less than 15 percent of mothers and caregivers knew the signs, Meas Bunly said.

Only about 34 percent took children with signs of pneumonia to a public health facility. Only 3.6 percent took their children to a hospital after recognizing the symptoms. The campaign aims to increase that number to 25 percent in 2016.