|Nhor Bork, 19, (left) has benefited from parenting education classes delivered by Kavet Neang (right) in Koy village, Ratanakiri province|
© UNICEF Cambodia/2015/Vanny Kong
Kavet Neang is talking to 25 women, each intently engaged with what she is saying. These mothers are from Koy village in Ratanakiri, the province in Cambodia’s remote northeastern corner, and this is a UNICEF-supported village health support group. Neang is the local commune focal point for women and children, a role which sees her deliver parenting education sessions such as this one.
Neang speaks in Kroeung, the local language in this rural village. Today she is raising awareness on key obstetric care practices – helping women to know how to protect the health of their baby and themselves when they give birth.
Parenting education classes are an important component of UNICEF’s strategy for improving family and caregiver practices, with the aim of reducing maternal mortality and bettering early childhood survival and development.
Before the introduction of parenting education classes in Koy, people would usually pray to spirits when a family member was sick. Today, thanks to Neang’s teachings, many of these same families understand why the traditional healthcare methods that they previously depended on are actually risky and dangerous. Women are advised of the potential health dangers in the use of traditional birth attendants, as opposed to skilled midwives and delivering at formal health facilities. This is an important step in reducing maternal and infant mortality, particularly in rural and remote areas. Families in Koy have expressed the value that they now place on the classes.
“I participated in the parenting class to be aware about safe delivery, breastfeeding, and the need to save money before having my baby,” recalls Nhor Bork, aged 19, of why she first entered the class six months ago.
|Kavet Neang (right) explains about good nutrition during a parenting education session|
© UNICEF Cambodia/2015/Vanny Kong
A major factor in the low levels of awareness on critical lifesaving medical practices is the remote location of Koy. Furthermore, even if families were aware that traditional medical practices are unsafe, they felt that access to life-saving interventions during childbirth was limited by financial constraints. Koy is about 24 km from the nearest health centre in Ou Chum, and about 32 km from the provincial town’s referral hospital. From the village, costs for delivery including transportation to the health centre and food is about 100,000 riel ($25), a significant sum for families in Koy.
The social responsibility of saving and preparing for giving birth is also a fundamental aspect of the class. Today, with her newborn in her arms, Bork says that, “the class is important to me because I was worried about dangers during delivery and now I am thankful that I learned how to save money.”
Among the lessons that focus on post-natal care, Neang shares with her class that early and exclusive breastfeeding supports healthy brain development. She explains that breast milk is the foundation of good nutrition because it provides all of the nutrients, vitamins and minerals an infant needs for growth in its first six months. Neang goes a step further and integrates the information in the context of the Koy community. An example of her method includes explaining to mothers that they can keep breast stored if they are concerned about balancing time between feedings and farm work.
Thanks to UNICEF’s technical and financial support to village health support groups, and thanks to the hard work of Neang and her counterparts, many parents and caregivers are now better able to make informed decisions for the good health and wellbeing of their children.