RURAL HEALTH CARE SYSTEM IN CAMBODIA
According to World Bank estimates, around 20% of Cambodians live in poverty. That’s down from more than 50% just 15 years ago—a huge achievement. But millions more exist in the borderlands of poverty, at high risk of sinking back in.
A World Health Organization study titled Poverty and Health states the obvious: Poverty and health are inextricably linked. Poor people are less healthy and die younger. Their rates of disease, maternal mortality, and childhood death are higher—die of preventable and treatable illnesses such as cholera, malaria, respiratory infections, diarrhea, and tuberculosis (UNICEF).
Most of the poorest Cambodians live in rural areas where there’s little or no access to water, sanitation, or medical care—areas plagued by food insecurity and high rates of malnutrition. It’s a vicious cycle: Poverty causes poor health causes poverty. Malnourished people with no clean water to drink are more vulnerable to illness. And illness can plunge a family deeper into destitution and debt, as income is lost and medical costs spiral. Some families are forced to sell their homes or borrow money to pay health care bills.
That’s why, as the WHO points out, health is a “crucially important economic asset…central to overall human development and to the reduction of poverty.”
Meanwhile, Cambodia’s healthcare infrastructure is still rebuilding from the disaster of Year Zero and the decades of war and unrest that followed. It’s estimated that only 40-50 doctors survived the Khmer Rouge; and health care in the 80s and early 90s was plagued by corruption, poor wages, absenteeism, and a “bureaucratic culture afflicted by favoritism and lackadaisical accountability” (NYTimes, 2006). Today, the quality of medical care in Cambodia is still inconsistent, and in rural areas, medical services are often bare-bones. And families in remote areas often have no way to reach a clinic—or to afford the treatment; many still rely on Khmer Kru—traditional village healers (WHO, Health Service Delivery Profile, 2012).
SWDC'S FREE CLINIC AND HEALTH EDUCATION
At SWDC, we see the evidence every day that good health is THE essential ingredient in a recipe for a happy, prosperous life. That’s why we offer free basic care and health education to the women, children and employees of SWDC.
Our clinic, the Kindred Hearts Medical Clinic, provides free health assessments, diagnoses, and treatment, and our midwife offers newborn care and pre- and post-natal care to pregnant women and nursing mothers.
Many rural Cambodians know little or nothing about proper nutrition, vaccinations, hygiene, birth control, HIV/AIDS prevention, or how to protect themselves from preventable infectious and mosquito-borne diseases such as cholera, malaria, and dengue fever.
Our clinic chief and KHMC midwife offer SWDC employees basic classes in healthy eating, preventing and treating illness, breastfeeding, family planning, and the use of basic medicines. In 2016, there were 1457 visits to our clinic for consultation and treatment and 66 cases for blood analysis.
At SWDC, we believe that investing in health pays big dividends—in increased productivity at the looms and in the classrooms, of course. But more importantly, in the relieved faces of moms whose kids are vaccinated, well-fed, and stand a better chance than ever that they’ll celebrate many more birthdays than the generations before them