Your Venerable Buddhist Monks,
H.E. Shin Hyun-Suk, Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to Cambodia,
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, National and International Guests,
Today, I am honored and have a great pleasure to participate with Your Venerable Buddhist Monks, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, National and International Guests in the official inauguration of the Cambodia-Korea Friendship Building inside the National Children Hospital.
On behalf of the Royal Government and myself, I would like to compliment the efforts of the Ministry of Health’s management and staffs, especially doctors and nurses in the hospitals all over the country who have been working hard to support, prepare and improve our national health system.
At the same time, I would like to express my sincere thanks to the people and government of Korea for continuous support by providing concessional loans and promoting Korean investment in Cambodia. The Korean government always contributes both physical and spiritual support to the rehabilitation and development of Cambodia. The recent exchange visits from the leaders of both countries, the grant and low-interest concessional loans and the significant increase in volume of Korean investment and number of tourists reflect the strong and good relationship between Cambodia and Korea.
In this regard, the official inauguration of Cambodia-Korea Friendship Building today is another new achievement timely responses to the need of people and government of Cambodia in improving and upgrading welfare of her people, especially in health for the poor people and children.
It is true that the development and health is intertwined and health center is the only place which provides health services. Good provision of health services would improve the people’s health and intelligence and positively benefit the economic development. Good health will contribute to higher productivity, investment and income as well as saving since they do not need to spend money on health care. All of these are the sources of the investment financing. The experiences from regional countries reveal that health improvement is one of the key factors that propel the economic prosperity in East Asia though the health improvement alone is not sufficient enough for economic development.
In this spirit, the main objective of the Royal Government in the health sector is to establish a health sector which provides high quality of health services to all Cambodian people, because it is an important sector, which contributes to the whole process of development, especially for economic growth and equitable redistribution.
To achieve the objective, the Royal Government has been implementing the national campaign on health improvement through a number of important programs:
First: to promote the educational program on health care and disease prevention methods such as transmission diseases, malaria, cholera, tuberculosis and bird flu by mass media such as radio, television, newspapers and going directly to the local level.
Second: to promote the maternal and children health care program through the vaccination campaigns for mothers and children at the local level for polio, tetanus and malnutrition.
Third: to promote the awareness of HIV/AIDS, prevention, victim care and life-prolonging medicine through the door-step method and mass media.
Fourth: to build and deploy more referral hospitals, health centers and equipping necessary facilities at commune level through out the country.
Moreover, the Royal Government has made the utmost effort to improve professional basic health care to reach an appropriate and acceptable level for the people in rural areas. In this spirit, the Royal Government has paid attention on training doctors, specialists and staffs both within the country and abroad.
After the liberation day, 7 January 1979, the health sector was totally destroyed. At that time, we tried to mobilize survival doctors and nurses to re-organize the national health system. I still remember that doctors and nurses in our roster were only 57. Gradually, between 1980-1989, we re-organized the health sector, built physical infrastructure, management structure, as well as mobilizing and training more doctors and nurses to 2000. In the 1990s, we had 1,600 medical staffs in which 1526 were doctors while other 9822 were nurses and mid-wives.
At the same time, I am so proud of the achievements made by the government particularly in the health sector such as the elimination of polio, the increase in vaccination coverage, the increase in Vitamin A provision coverage, baby breast-feeding programs for newborn to 6 months, education and awareness campaign through media and the local level and human resources development at the local level, which can be considered as the core in providing health care services to all people.
According to the Health Report, the number of health centers and referral hospitals with appropriate facilities, capable staffs and constant supply of medicines has subsequently increased. Moreover, the fight against HIV/AIDS yielded a prideful result. The number of centers for HIV/AIDS consultation and blood test has increased to hundred of places in the present time. Especially, 18,256 HIV/AIDS patients of which 1,571 are children have received life-prolonging medical treatment. The other achievements in the health sector include the examination and treatment of tuberculosis, reduction in death rate from malaria and dengue fever and the active campaign to fight and monitor bird flu.
I am happy with the result of the National Health Survey, which found that mortality rate of children below five decreased from 124 in 2000 to only 83 per thousand births, which means 30% reduction. This is the national pride which we hope that we can reach the Millennium Development Goals in 2015 even before 2015 on the reduction of child mortality rate. Moreover, the malnutrition of children below five went down from 15% to 7%, which means reduction by more than half. This progress is valuated to be significant comparing to the average reduction in developing countries around the world in which the international institutions projected that the children mortality rate can only be reduced to only the rate of 13% for 10 years (1990-2001).
I understand that the achievements of these efforts were not due to the pressure from any parties, but it is the result of the response to the real need of Cambodia to reduce poverty through government’s intervention and the good progresses in other relevant sectors. The construction of physical infrastructure such as roads and bridges and other telecommunication have facilitated the transportation of patients and timely strengthening of health sector at the local level as well as the progress in education system helps in dissemination of health information.
Through my participation in many health forums, I have made some recommendations to the Ministry of Health and related institutions. Now I would like to provide additional recommendations as follow:
First, even though the child mortality rate was significantly reduced, the rate remains high comparing to the region, therefore children health care remains the priority in this sector.
Second, even though with good progress in maternal health coverage, the reduction of maternal mortality requires more concerted efforts and proper evaluation method on the result, since some statistical experts said that it can take 10 years to accurately interpret the data and changes; in order to avoid wrong interpretation or ill-will interpretation on our efforts.
Third, continue to reinforce the previous recommendations on the encouragement medical staffs especially mid-wives to work in rural areas.
Fourth, as the Ministry of Health has recently expanded health network to rural areas, the children health care should be expanded, so that children do not need to be brought to Phnom Penh for medical treatment. Therefore, I would like to urge hospitals to actively participate rural health improvement through training and internship.
Fifth, recently, the National Assembly adopted the 2007 Budget of which chapter 65 has budget of 2,319.3 billions Riels for the Ministry of Health to support poor patients. Therefore, the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Economy and Finance should cooperate to prepare an inter-ministerial Prakas No. 809 on the policy to support the poor effectively, timely and transparently under the framework of harmonization with Equity Fund supported by international donations.
Sixth, the Ministry of Healthy and Ministry of Economy and Finance should cooperate to sustainably manage the hospitals based on the real situation such as converting more national hospitals to be the public enterprises.
Seventh, to operate this new building, which is equipped with modern facilities, the Ministry of Health should discuss with relevant institutions to recruit more medical staffs and specialists for these modern facilities.
Once again, I would like deeply thanks the Ministry of Health with the cooperation from relevant institutions and development partners in the health sectors, national and international organizations, civil societies and private sector as well as the Cambodian people who have exerted their utmost physical and mental efforts and good cooperation for the causes of improving health services and welfare of the people, that contribute to the poverty reduction.
Taking this opportunity, I would like to warmly appreciate the Korea International Cooperation Agency for its efforts in completing the construction and equipping the building with modern facilities on time with high quality in order to elevate the health services of the Cambodian children.
At the same time, I highly appreciate and sincerely compliment the efforts of the management, officials and staffs of the National Children Hospital for their hard and noble works to contribute to the development of our health services.
Finally I would like to wish you all with the Five Gems of Buddhist Blessings. On this joyful occasion and prideful achievement, I would like to officially open the Cambodia-Korea Friendship Building from now on.