by Mom Chantara Soleil
Over 1,000 families in thirteen villages of Nhang commune, Andong Meas district of northeastern Ratanak Kiri province will no longer hesitate to refer their sick members to health services coming much closer to them – thanks to the historic existence of Nhang Health Center officially opened on Jan. 21.
“Before, sick villagers had to take the boat to across the river and travel on about 20 kilometer mountain roads to the nearest health center at the district town. Because of difficult roads and no money to spend on the trip, some risked lives of their loved ones choosing traditional treatment, including local ritual performance. All these are over now,” said Mr. Phon Sophat, Director of Nhang Health Center.
Funded by Mr. Ryuuseki Nakayama through Plan offices in Japan and Cambodia and in cooperation with the Ministry of Health and sub-national health program, Nhang Health Center makes health care access one-quarter closer, in an average, to the far-flung population. Before, the nearest health center is 19 kilometers away from the Nhang Health Center.
“More importantly, the 6,324 people in the 13 villages [of them 3,150 are female and 1,094 are children under five] don’t have to cross the river,” added the Health Center Director.
In his address to more than 450 community people attending the official opening of Nhang Health Center, H.E. Ing Phirun, Heath Secretary of State, highlighted that, “The location of the health center was practically selected. It is the best place accessible by the population here. I encourage our health workers, local authorities and all people living in the covered communities to take the best care of this important facility.”
At least 70 percent of the benefiting population are indigenous minorities. Most of residents depend heavily on rice growing and cassava and cashew plantation as main sources of income.
“Overall, their rice growing can feed them between six to nine months. They have to go into the forest to collect vegetables and other wild products to survive for the rest of the year,” said Mr. Phen Bunthoeun, Plan’s Programme Unit Manager in Ratanak Kiri.
According to Mr. Phen Bunthoeun, the construction of Nhang Health Center took almost one year and a half using 100,000 US dollars.
“Comparing to other provinces, we took more time to construct the health center given difficult road access. However, I appreciate and am very proud of the participation level of the community. For example, they helped monitor the construction process and mobilized their own money to build the fence of the health center,” added Mr. Phen Bunthoeun.
Bringing basic health care services closest to the people is one of the commitments of the Royal Government of Cambodia and health development partners.
For Ratanak Kiri, the Cambodia Strategic Health Plan aims to mobilize national and international assistance to construct 16 new health centers between 2008 and 2015 in order to meet the provincial health care demand.
Twelve health centers had been built in the province, making Nhang the 13th
The Cambodia Demographic Health Survey from 2010 indicates that while the national under-five mortality rate is 54 per 1000 live births, the rate in Ratanak Kiri is 106 per 1000 live births. That means that twice as many children die before their fifth birthday in Ratanak Kiri as they do in the rest of the country.
Thanking to all donors, especially Mr. Ryuuseki Nakayama, H.E. Ing Phirun expressed his optimism that the presence of Nhang Health Center and its on-going support services by development partners will not only contribute to the improvement of mother and child health but also push 13 villages under the coverage by the health center out of the list of high-risk community in terms of health issues.