Date: 04 Mar 2011
By Andy Mcelroy, IFRC Bangkok
The president of Cambodian Red Cross has been recognised as a national champion for mother and child health at a major ceremony in Phnom Penh. More than 800 people witnessed Dr Bun Rany Hun Sen receive the award from the UN population fund's Asia Pacific regional director Nobuko Horibe. Letters of recognition were also received from UNICEF and UNAIDS.
The Cambodian Red Cross president said that there were several challenges in Cambodia around mother and child health including a lack of midwives, limited health budgets, lack of medical equipment as well as basic key health messages reaching those who were most vulnerable and isolated in the country.
'While this is an honour for me, there are clearly many more duties that I have to carry out especially at a time of so many challenges around maternal and child health here in Cambodia and around the world,' Dr Hun Sen said.
The Cambodian Red Cross president speaks from experience, some of it tragic. She lost her first child after giving birth in November 1976 during some of the most difficult times in Cambodia. She trained and became an experienced midwife and has assisted in the delivery of hundreds of babies.
Dr Hun Sen called for broader and more intensive focus on health and hygiene. 'In particular, pregnant women should be advised to change their habit of having babies delivered at home by traditional midwives with no professional training.'
In a strong declaration of humanitarian diplomacy, the Red Cross president stated: 'At the same time, the Ministry of Health and other agencies should continue to strengthen and be more active in providing services to people without discrimination based on either political affiliation or wealth status, particularly vulnerable people from remote areas.'
At the ceremony the Cambodian government announced the adoption of 21 February as the national day for maternal, newborn and child health.
Cambodian Red Cross' health strategy 2012 stresses the need to reduce deaths, illness and impact from disease by addressing the leading causes of child and maternal morbidity and mortality. This area is a central pillar of the national society's approach in health.
It is part of the national society's contribution to the International Federation's global initiative of "making every mother and child count" towards the Millennium Development Goals. This drive sees the national society contribute significantly to the national health agenda driven by government but with the auxiliary role of the Red Cross playing a defined and supportive role.
The Cambodian government is seeking to reduce the under five mortality rate by two-thirds; and the maternal mortality by three-quarters ration, both by 2015. It also wants to move towards universal access to reproductive health.