– Your Excellencies Member of Senate, Parliament and Government,
– Your Excellencies, Ladies, Gentlemen and Distinguish Guests,
Today, my wife and I are delighted to preside over the opening of the National Campaign for Children’s Survival on the 01stJune, the international Children Day, which is celebrated by the Royal Government of Cambodia every year, being a signatory country of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children and their Survival. In addition, today is my fourth participation of the major events in health sector since the closing of the health conference on 27th March, 2006.
My wife and I would like to take this auspicious opportunity to express my appreciation, enthusiasm and compliment to the efforts made by leaders, officials and staffs of the Ministry of Health, relevant ministries and institutions, national and international organizations, civil societies and private sector; that have worked actively in the causes of improving the health and welfare of people and children in particular. While we open the National Campaign for Children’s Survival today, we should recall an historical event about the survival of Cambodian people of all ages including children; it was the 7th January, 1979. After the liberation day, rehabilitation of the health sector was considered to be one of the high priorities determined by the government at that time. War and instability had left countless consequences in the health sector including to the severe destruction of physical infrastructure and technical and administrative basis for supporting the sector. As the result, death rates and illness among children and adolescence were quite high.
In the past several years, Cambodia has made a significant progress in all sectors including children related sectors and effectively implemented reform programs in all sectors of the government. Under this strategic framework, women and children have been set as priority and included in National Development Program especially in the social sector which continues to implement gender policies, to improve and strengthen education quality and to enhance quality of health service.
Indeed, within the last 5 years, infant mortality rate for children under 5 was reduced by 30%, which reflects a proud progress because if it is compared to the 2005 Human Development Report by UNDP, the infant mortality rate for children under 5 in the world has been reduced by about 47 percent within 30 years from 1970 to 2003. However, in East Asia and Pacific the infant mortality rate has bee reduced by 68% for the same period of 30 years. In addition, percentage of children below 5 who suffered from moderate underweight was reduced by 50% and while the moderate stunted children was reduced by 18%.
Indeed, to provide sufficient services and full rights to children is a hard task which requires the leaders to have skills, patient and time. The Royal Government of Cambodia has determined a clear and specific path to ensure social safety and security for children who are the essential foundation for a sustainable national development. Presently, I would proudly claim that Cambodia has no longer suffered from the civil war, since we have got full peace and Cambodian children do not need to live in hiding or separation from their families. In health sector, we have gained a great success in fighting against polio and Cambodian children live free from the disease that can make them handicap for the whole life. This is the achievement of the 21st century for the survival of Cambodian children.
Even though we have obtained great success, we still need to overcome a lot of challenges for the survival of children. Infant and children mortality rates yet remain high. Majority of the people use private health services without appropriate inspection such as traditional healers, traditional midwifes, village pharmacies, pharmacies and private clinics; that would make people become poorer and use unsafe services. At the same malnutrition and micronutrient malnutrition play an important role in transmitting diseases such as diarrhea, acute respiratory infection, measles, malaria, dengue fever and HIV.
The Royal Government of Cambodia clearly understands that the expansion of quality services provision, particularly to baby and poor family is the main and necessary task. Therefore, the enhancement and the access to the public services alone is not enough, because the intervention initiated by parental and baby- and child-sitter communities can be done at lower cost and higher effectiveness for the survival of children.
As shown in the movie clip, children who received breastfeeding immediately after birth and continue to be fed within the first 6 months are healthy and intelligent. This clip is not a casting without reflecting the facts in the society, but it shows, by world data, that if 90% of mother practiced only breastfeeding for the first 6 months, the infant and children mortality rate would reduce by 13%. It is easy for us to adapt since we have a habit of breastfeeding and there is no need to change that. We just need to improve the method to be more appropriate, which means that we have to start breastfeeding within an hour after birth and continue to only breastfeed within the first six months. In Cambodia, breastfeeding is a good tradition that 90% of Cambodian mothers practice and 60% of them practices the first six month breastfeeding only according to the unofficial Health Demographic Survey 2005-2006. On behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia and actual evidence, I would like to appeal to all mothers to practice breastfeeding immediately after birth and the first six months breastfeeding only.
In the sense to address infant and children’s related issues, at the end of 2005, the Royal Government has issued a sub-decree on the promotion of baby and children feeding products. This sub-decree has the ambition to thoroughly and safely provide infants and small children with appropriate supplements through assisting and promoting breastfeeding and encouraging the use of supplements which are appropriate to the age of the infants and children in order to ensure the appropriate use of alternative products to breast milk whenever necessary with sufficient source of information. This sub-decree will come into effect from June this year and the Royal Government has ultimately given the authority to enforce this sub-decree to the Ministry of Health. Taking this opportunity, I would like all companies that are selling infant and children’s feeding products to adhere and obey this sub-decree without any excuse.
At the same time, the Ministry of Health’s report as well as the world’s data reveals that infants and children lacking their mother’s breast milk are vulnerable to diseases such as diarrhea, and acute respiratory infection. Unfortunately, diarrhea andacute respiratory infection are the prime killers that have claimed many infant and children’s lives. Therefore, we can see that diarrhea is a very simple type of disease, which can easily be prevented and cured. For instance, diarrhea in children can be caused by the lack of hygiene which all parents can prevent by simply having their children drink only boiled water, clean their hands with soaps before meals and cover the food away from flies. It’s also easy when it comes to treatment, because we all know that after having diarrhea we lost a lot of water from our body. Hence, we must provide infant and children who suffered diarrhea with sufficient water. According to the world’s data, providing infants and children who suffered diarrhea with sufficient water can reduce the death rate of the disease by 15%.
Moreover, there are plenty more works that parents need to do for their infant and children’s survival such as the use of iodized salt. Iodine not only provides infants and children with the nutrition that make them physically strong but also make them clever. The lack of Iodine can affect the ability of infants and children to grow taller and smarter.
Taking this opportunity also, in order to promote the improvement of children’s health, especially in this National Campaign for Children’s Survival, I would like to give some recommendations for thought as follow:
1- Even though, the Ministry of Health, indeed plays a leading role in health sector, some of the works, especially those related to the children’s health can only succeed with inter-sectoral’s cooperation, and most importantly the participation from all concerned institutions.
2- National Campaign for Children’s Survival must be implemented according to the whole sector management framework, especially to avoid repetition of resource movement or to cause the flaw in any field. In this sense, the program or intervention for children’s survival can not be separated from health’s related works such as reproduction health. For example, regarding the local service delivery we must have appropriately furnished and equipped buildings full of staffs that can provide the service for children’s health as well as for other health’s related services.
3- Must strengthen and expand the quality and the ability to receive public health’s services through the increased in health sector’s budget, enhancing the timely provision of cash to the local health centers and raising the salary for nurses, especially midwives in remote arrears.
4- Public health sector must pay attention on the monitoring and maintaining a closed cooperation with the private sector with the objective to make every private clinics as well as private service providers related to health issues to follow the principle of treatment formula, national policy, regulation and sub-decree of the Royal Government.
5- Encourage the participation from communities, parents and baby sitters on the protection and treatment, especially promoting the understanding and basic education on appropriate domestic nurturing and the search for appropriate care services.
At the same time, I would like to stress that the launching of the campaign today will last forever, or at least until there will be a reduction in the infant and children’s mortality rate by 2/3 by 2015. Especially, today’s campaign will enhance the implementation of the National Campaign for Children’s Survival at local health centers and communities across the Royal Kingdom of Cambodia. Taking this opportunity, on behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia, I would like to deeply appreciate the NGOs, development partners, especially, the United States of America’s Agency for International Development, the Japanese’s Agency for International Development, England and France governments, the World Bank, and all the United Nation’s Agencies, who always provide both the technical and financial supports with an aim of strengthening the health’s system and improving people’s health which represents the important factor to contribute to the poverty reduction in Cambodia.
Today’s campaign does not only mean to change the attitude of the community and baby sitters alike, but it’s also the event that the Royal Government would like to further call for the development partners to increase funding to improve the health of mothers, infants, and children due to the fact that children are the successors, hence “Healthy Children Make the Country Prosperous”.
Finally, I would also like to thank the committee in charged of this “National Campaign for Children’s Survival” today, especially the MEDICAM organization and many other health sector’s partners who have been closely cooperated with the Ministry of Health in launching this campaign as well as providing the educational tools necessary for the implementation of the “National Campaign for Children’s Survival” at communities and local health centers.
I would like to whish Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, National and International Guests with the Five Gems of Buddhist Blessing. May I now announce the official launching of the National Campaign for Children’s Survival from now on.