Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Antenatal care services provided in remote and hard-to-access villages in Cambodia

 By Ponlok Leng

RATANAKIRI, Cambodia, 27 January 2015 – There was a time when few pregnant women in Lamoeuy village, northern Cambodia, received antenatal care services from the Voeunsai Health Centre 20 kilometres away.

Mr. Saly (right) a member of the health outreach team, provides vaccinations to children in Lamoeuy village, north-east Cambodia.
© UNICEF Cambodia/2014/Ponlok Leng
Lamoeuy is a Kavait ethnic minority village located approximately 71 kilometres from the provincial town. All this changed in 2013, when - with UNICEF support – the health centre launched a health outreach team.  As a result, last year, about one-third of the pregnant women received antenatal care at least once.

Reaching Lamoeuy is challenging. The outreach team of two male staff and one midwife from the health centre need to travel by motorbike, then boat to cross the river and again by motorbike or ox cart. The cost of travelling from the village to the health centre is high and it is especially difficult during the rainy season.

“Most women will not have the chance to get antenatal care services if the midwife does not join the outreach team,” said Mrs. Chantry, the health centre midwife on the outreach team. We cannot wait for them to come to the health centre. I know that it is difficult to provide services in the village.”

Midwife, Mrs. Chantry, (in orange) and members of the health team travel by motorbike and boat to provide antenatal health outreach services in Lamoeuy village, north-east Cambodia.
© UNICEF Cambodia/2014/Ponlok Leng

Outreach team visits four times a year

The outreach team provides services including immunization against preventable childhood diseases, vitamin A supplementation, deworming and antenatal care, and delivers key health messages. These outreach services are in line with Ministry of Health guidelines for ‘Outreach Services from the Health Centre’ which aims to ensure that remote villages receive a package of health services four times per year.

© UNICEF Cambodia/2014/Ponlok Leng

In 2014, UNICEF, with funding from the UNICEF National Committees of Norway, Lithuania and Denmark, supported outreach services in selected remote and difficult-to-access villages with low coverage. As a result, pregnant women in Lamoeuy village are continuing to benefit.

It takes two hours for the outreach team to reach the village. They meet with the village health volunteer, Mrs. Horn Ten, who helps them inform the villagers about the outreach antenatal care services available to them and organizes a small room in her house for the midwife to use. “I am happy that more women have been checked during pregnancy,” said Mrs Ten.

Services for pregnant women, mothers and newborns

Mrs. Chantry (right) provides antenatal care services during the health outreach visit to Lamoeuy village, north-east Cambodia.
© UNICEF Cambodia/2014/Ponlok Leng

Women also receive tetanus vaccinations to prevent their newborns from contracting neonatal tetanus, iron folate tablets to prevent anaemia and screening to detect any danger signs during pregnancy.

They are educated on key information related to birth preparedness and preventing serious illnesses such as malaria. They are instructed on the dangers of taking drugs without prescription, personal hygiene, labour and post-delivery for both mothers and newborns.

© UNICEF Cambodia/2014/Ponlok Leng

During a recent outreach visit, Mrs. Kaly Oeuy, a 17-year-old in her first pregnancy was being checked for the second time and is now looking forward to her baby’s birth with greater confidence. “I received advice that I did not know before to take care of my pregnancy and how I should behave and deliver my baby,” she said.

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