In September our ‘Safe Arrivals’ team heads off to Cambodia to train another 300 midwives. It’s hard to believe, but childbirth is one of the riskier events of a woman’s life – especially in a developing nation.
The Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) in Australia is 8.4/100,000. That means that there are 8.4 women who die in childbirth or from pregnancy related complications for every 100,000 live births. In Cambodia the unofficial MMR is around 700/100,000. That means a pregnant woman in Cambodia has 83 more times the chance of dying than a pregnant woman in Australia.
Numbers can be quickly dismissed but it’s worth knowing that in Cambodia every three and a half hours a mother dies in childbirth or from complications relating to pregnancy. The ‘official’ maternal death rate accounts for 18% of all deaths of Cambodian women aged 15-49 years – the reality would be much higher.
In rural and remote Cambodia, where 85% of the population live, only 28% of women have a skilled birth attendant present during delivery. For the majority of labouring women the most common delivery assistant is a traditional birth attendant (TBA).
Disappointingly, these faithful, caring and selfless women who serve their communities in a role played out for thousands of years are often overlooked and worse still held responsible as ‘scapegoats’ for the country’s high infant and maternal deaths.
In contrast I see them as an intrinsic part in the well being of their communities; needing to be embraced and taught new skills to deliver healthy outcomes for Cambodia’s mums and babies.
Cambodia’s traditional birth attendants – not cut loose, ignored or blamed but honoured and re-skilled, that’s the heart of Safe Arrivals!