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Cambodia Prepares To Assess Its Development Goals

When world leaders gather in New York next week to discuss the Millennium Development Goals of UN countries, they will find Cambodia well along on benchmarks for HIV and AIDS, but appears lagging in maternal mortality and other goals.

MDGs were pledged by 189 countries in 2000, creating targets for 2015. In that time, Cambodia has gained ground in the fight against HIV, AIDS and child mortality, officials said. But it is behind on saving mothers in childbirth and protecting the environment.

Tia Phalla, vice chairman of the National AIDS Authority, said Cambodia has reached a goal of 0.9 percent prevalence.

“We have good figures on both prevention and treatment,” he told VOA Khmer.

In child mortality, which was a prime concern in the past, Cambodia has made “remarkable progress” since 2000, Sherif Rushdy, the UNDP program adviser in charge of Cambodia's MDGs, said in an e-mail.

Infant mortality improved from 95 to 60 deaths per 1,000 live births between 2000 and 2008, while deaths for children under five years old fell from 124 to 83 death per 1,000 live births from 2000 to 2005, Rushdy wrote, quoting figures from the Ministry of Health.

Both rates were expected to “far exceed” Cambodia's 2015 goals, which may be revised further, Rushdy wrote.

But even with such improvement, Cambodia retains one of the highest child mortality rates in the region.

There is also concern it may not meet its goals in maternal mortality, and environmental protection, despite a sanguine report issued last week by the Center for Global Development. That report found Cambodia among countries that could achieve most of its 2015 targets, although it only looked into a small number of those.

“We need to deepen our study on these issues,” said Hou Taing Eng, secretary of state for the Ministry of Planning.

Meanwhile, the administration of US President Barack Obama in July unveiled its own strategic plan to help developing countries meet their goals, including investing in health and education, economic growth and well-governed institutions; empowering women and girls; and watching development outcomes and accountability.

“We applaud President Obama's MDG plan,” Gregory Adams, the director of aid effectiveness for Oxfam America, said in a statement. “We urge the president at the September summit to make an appeal to the world's leaders that achieving the MDGs is a winnable fight, but one that cannot be done in isolation. It is a global effort, and as a global community we need a policy and funding to win it.”

The US provided $68.5 million to Cambodia through USAID in 2010, “part of the broader program of US assistance in Cambodia,” according to the US Embassy in Phnom Penh.

The US aid package focused on health care and education in rural areas, reduction of HIV and AIDS, good governance and rule of law, as well as food security and climate change, the Embassy said in a statement.

Cambodia still has a high poverty rate—about 30 percent of its population live below the poverty line—and there is room for improvement, development experts say.

“We believe that resources provided by development partners to Cambodia should be used more effectively and transparently,” Seang Soleak, a spokesman for Oxfam America's Cambodia office, said. “We have seen that assistance has so far not effectively tackled grave issues affecting the poor, especially those in rural areas.”