Cambodia is the country that launched the work of Medical Teams International in 1979. Back then, after years of civil war, the Khmer Rouge had taken control of Phnom Penh. Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot’s vision for Cambodia centered on a return to an agrarian communist society – this led to the killing millions of intellectuals, businessmen, doctors, Buddhist leaders, and foreigners and widespread destruction of infrastructure.
It is estimated that 1.5 to 2 million people – 25% of the population – were killed during this time.
The country has struggled to recover from this period of immense destruction. Most of Cambodia’s population lives in rural communities plagued by malnutrition and limited access to health services.
We Trained Cambodian First Responders
In Cambodia, roads have developed faster than hospitals. Emergency services are few and inconsistent, making the growing number of vehicle accidents extremely deadly. If no ambulance arrives or EMTs are not adequately trained, it may be hours before a crash victim gets proper care.
To meet this growing need, we trained local First Responders to be equipped for traffic accidents and other emergencies. We supported ambulances with supplies and technical support. We developed a strong relationship with the Ministry of Health in Cambodia, which allowed us to expand Emergency Medical Services across the country.
We Made Birth Safer for Mothers and Babies
Maternal and infant death rates were high in Cambodia. Most deaths were preventable and occurred between the onset of labor and 24 hours after birth. Long-held traditions like delivering babies at home and a lack of education meant mothers were ill-equipped to deal with emergencies during birth. Pregnant women in rural Cambodia also faced serious transportation barriers in getting from their home to a health facility.
We improved maternal health by training birth attendants and midwives in the latest labor and delivery practices. We also provided life-saving anti-shock garments for mothers to treat post-partum hemorrhaging. These low-cost garments stabilize blood pressure and enable transport to a hospital where the mother can receive urgent care.
We transitioned out of Cambodia in 2017, handing First Responder and maternal and child health programs over to the very capable communities in which we were honored to have worked for so many years.