Nine years ago leaders from 189 nations established ‘a blueprint for a better world’. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are an international commitment to halve the effects of extreme poverty by 2015.
Goal 5 is to Improve Maternal Health; targeting the reduction by three quarters of the maternal mortality ratio, and to achieve universal access to reproductive health. Disappointingly, the United Nations MDGs Report for 2009 finds that ‘Goal 5’ has had the least amount of progress and that ‘giving birth safely is largely a privilege of the rich’.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) Cambodia presently has one of the worst maternal mortality ratios in the world; 450 deaths per 100,000 live births. As a comparison Australia’s ratio is 11 deaths per 100,000 live births. In addition only 32 percent of Cambodian births are assisted by a trained or skilled birth attendant. And significantly, 44 percent of all pregnant women in Cambodia have just one antenatal check-up.
Critically linked to issues of maternal health is the fourth MDG- Reduce Child Mortality. As the UN records ‘Approximately two thirds of infant deaths occur in the neonatal period’ and are ‘related to care during delivery’. Cambodia is the only country in its region to record an increasing infant mortality rate; 106 deaths per 1000 live births (Australia’s rate is 4.7).
With the MDG clock ticking the 2h Project is looking to ‘kick a goal or two’, working collaboratively with the Cambodian government’s Ministry of Health (MOH). Over the last three years the joint project has trained 900 rural and remote traditional birth attendants with a further 300 registered for training later this year. In recognising that the ‘many health problems among pregnant women are preventable, detectable or treatable through visits with trained health workers’ – the goals are now in sight.