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Phnom Penh, 21 June 2023 – COVID-19 disrupted many things, but it did not stop the need for care and support to women delivering their babies, or the need for reproductive health care or support to survivors of gender-based violence. In Cambodia, the Government of Japan supported the Ministries of Health; Education, Youth and Sport; and Women’s Affairs through the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) towards ensuring that lifesaving and critical reproductive care and support could continue during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Today marked the official project closure of the joint project “Build resilient health care systems during the COVID-19 pandemic through enhancing life-saving services and digital transformation in Cambodia”. This project closure event was held in recognition of the lifesaving support provided by the Government of Japan to the Royal Government of Cambodia during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The project was developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic by working closely with key ministries to come up with innovative solutions on how to continue lifesaving sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) quality services, information and support. Project actions included increasing life-saving skills training for midwives to deliver babies, and for healthcare providers to be able to learn, share information and provide treatment online through platforms including E-learning and telemedicine. For young people and for those experiencing violence other innovations were developed including a youth mobile app, and a “Chatbot” mechanism which is currently being tested for those persons experiencing violence. These mechanisms provide information, care, and support to women, youth, survivors of violence, and families in Cambodia during the pandemic, and will continue to be used to benefit women, families, youth, and survivors of violence long after the project is over.


The project achieved the following results:  


Making sure every delivery is a safe delivery. The project partnership contributed towards training and lifesaving equipment that would ensure that women delivering during, and post COVID-19 pandemic could do so safely. This project increased the number of healthcare workers who can now tap into online learning, virtual healthcare, and advanced skills for emergencies during childbirth. This expansion in training ensures that mothers and their newborns get the highest quality of care, even when conditions are tough. And it means that medical teams are more prepared and skilled than ever before, to handle emergencies when caring for pregnant women and their babies.


The project also equipped the healthcare system with life-saving equipment that will make a big difference for women giving birth including 10 brand new ambulances, 290 kits full of essential items for midwives, 150 beds designed for safe childbirth, 50 suction devices to assist in difficult deliveries, 50 sterilizing units for safe surgical practices, and 400 special garments to prevent shock after severe bleeding. This lifesaving equipment, handed over to the Ministry of Health, will potentially contribute to an estimated 60,000 safe births at public health facilities of which 7,600 may involve emergency procedures for complicated childbirths in 8 northeastern provinces per year.

Innovative solutions. Two new innovative technical solutions to connect people with information and services were also developed.  The Youth Health Mobile App is a free app that provides young people with access to sexual and reproductive health information and services. Since launching in early 2023, it already has over 45,000 users. The app has the potential to increase access to a wide range of SRHR information and services for young people, particularly those who may not have other means of accessing this information.  The second innovation is a Chatbot auto-responder for GBV survivors which is currently being developed. The Chatbot will be able to answer questions about GBV and harassment, provide resources and referrals, and connect survivors with a qualified healthcare professional and social services needed. Once in place, the Chatbot will be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The Chatbot will integrate with another new mobile app, called the Safe App, which is currently being developed.

“On this auspicious occasion, which coincides with the 70th anniversary of Cambodia-Japan diplomatic relations, I stand before you to express my deepest gratitude to the precious contribution of the people and the Government of Japan. Your support has been instrumental in the development of many essential sectors in Cambodia, from education and healthcare to infrastructure and economic growth. I would also like to thank UNFPA for their continued support to the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sport. Your work in promoting education, reproductive health and sexual health is essential to the development of our nation. By educating Cambodian children and youth to have the knowledge, skills and attitudes to make responsible decisions about their health, you are helping to build a bright future for our country. Together, we can build a better future for all of our people” said H.E. Dr. Hang Chuon Naron, Minister of Education, Youth and Sport.


“Taking this opportunity, I would like to emphasize that the Ministry of Women's Affairs is committed to preventing and responding to violence against women in accordance with the principles of rights and needs of survivors of violence. We believe that all women have the right to live free from violence and we are committed to providing them with all necessary support they need. We will be using digital transformation to reach millions of people with our prevention campaign, develop a smartphone app, GBV chatbot. We have set up a helpline and counseling services, and legal support services too. These digital tools will help us to reach more women, provide them with information and support, and connect them with the services they need. I would like to express my deep gratitude to the people and the Government of Japan and UNFPA, for their support, technical assistance, funding, and strong cooperation with the Ministry of Women's Affairs. Their support has enabled us to make significant progress in our work to prevent and respond to violence against women. We are grateful for their continued partnership” said H.E. Dr. Ing Kantha Phavi, Minister of Women’s Affairs.


"The Ministry of Health is proud of its success in managing the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to cohesive and comprehensive strategies and interventions, including early detection and response, a strong public health infrastructure, and community engagement, we have been able to keep the COVID-19 situation under control. We are committed to building on this success and ensuring that Cambodia is well-prepared to respond to future health challenges. We would like to thank the Government of Japan for supporting this project to strengthen life-saving services, digital transformation, and sexual and reproductive health and rights, as well as maternal and newborn health. This project will help to ensure that the people in Cambodia have access to quality health services, regardless of where they live. We thank UNFPA for being a long-term partner with the Ministry of Health, and we would also like to thank all health workers, communities, and partners who have helped us to achieve this success. Together, we will continue to build a healthier Cambodia for all" said H.E. Dr. Or Vandine, Secretary of State, Ministry of Health.

H.E. Ueno Atsushi, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to the Kingdom of Cambodia says, “I would like to thank the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, UNFPA and everyone else involved for their hard work and the positive results they have achieved. I understand that they have implemented a lot of programs under this project and, as a result, medical equipment has been procured, training has been provided and digital systems have been launched. I am pleased to know that the project has enabled many Cambodian people, particularly women and girls, to lead healthier and more secure lives, both physically and mentally. I hope that the equipment and the digital systems provided will help many Cambodian people and future generations in the years to come.”


Ms. Sandra Bernklau, UNFPA Representative to Cambodia stated: “We are deeply grateful to the People and the Government of Japan for their timely support and partnership. The timely assistance provided will ultimately make childbirth safer for women in Cambodia. We commend the Ministry of Health for their leadership in managing COVID-19. We are pleased that this project has put in place sustainable mechanisms, including e-learning, telemedicine, the Youth mobile app and GBV Chatbot Auto-responder, to provide information, care, and support to those in need. These mechanisms will continue to benefit women and families in Cambodia long after this project is over. We are grateful for the opportunity to work with the People and the Government of Japan, and the three Ministries to make a positive difference in the lives of women, youths, and survivors of violence.”


The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) delivering a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled and every woman and girl is safe from violence.