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Health partnership shares final learnings from past five years

Government representatives and NGOs gathered this week to celebrate the achievements of Partnering to Save Lives (PSL), which has spent the past five years working to reduce maternal and newborn mortality in Cambodia.

Under this partnership, CARE has focused on two key areas: supporting women working in factories to make smart, healthy decisions and improving access to quality health services for ethnic minority women in the north-east of Cambodia. This has produced some notable results in improving the health rights of young women, young mothers, and their babies.

The challenges faced by women in remote north-eastern provinces are notably different to other parts of the country due to language barriers, cultural differences and long distances with difficult roads. CARE has learned that soft skills for health providers can be just as important as clinical skills. We have also seen the value of engaging influential community members – such as traditional birth attendants in ethnic minority communities – to support women to deliver at health facilities.

CARE’s work in ethnic minority communities has enabled women to access accurate health information, while support to midwives in government health centres has ensured that when women seek medical advice they receive quality services.

These changes had a huge impact on many young women and their babies: Thorm’s story shows how this is empowering women to make changes to keep their babies healthy, while Sina’s story shows how CARE’s work with communities and midwives helped to save her life.

The changes are apparent in the numbers as well. The PSL endline, a survey across eight provinces with 3,000 women of reproductive age, showed impressive gains in all four north-eastern provinces in terms of key maternal and newborn health outcomes. For example, in Mondul Kiri, one of CARE’s focus provinces, rates of women delivering at a health facility with skilled care increased from 58.8% to 86.5%.

Julia Battle, CARE’s Sexual Reproductive Health & Rights Advisor, says: “What we are seeing here is that despite all the additional challenges communities face in the northeast provinces, with extra support in the communities and at health facilities, they are making gains in terms of maternal and newborn health. They are finally catching up to the rest of the country.”

To address low levels of modern contraceptive use among garment workers, under PSL CARE created Chat! Contraception, an innovative package of face-to-face sessions, video screenings and an app game which empower women to take control of their lives and make healthier choices.

Starting in 16 factories under PSL, expansion through other partners has helped this reach over 27,000 workers in 35 factories. As a result, modern contraception use doubled (24.2-48%) and women’s utilization of health services also increased (8.6-20%) among participants. Learn more about Chat!’s impact on women in factories in this video.

As PSL comes to and end, CARE Cambodia will continue to focus on supporting women’s ability to make smart decisions about their bodies and access quality health services as part of a global focus on women’s sexual reproductive health rights.

Partnering to Save Lives (PSL), which is funded by the Australian Government, is a partnership between the Cambodian Ministry of Health, the Australian Government and three implementation NGOs—CARE, Marie Stopes International Cambodia and Save the Children—to reduce maternal and newborn mortality in Cambodia.

The PSL learning dissemination workshop took place on 27 June at the Raffles Hotel Le Royal in Phnom Penh.

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