Members of Congress witness how strong health systems create healthy, self-sufficient moms and families
WASHINGTON (Nov. 25. 2014) – A group of bipartisan members of Congress traveled with the poverty-fighting organization CARE to some of the poorest areas of Cambodia to learn how U.S. investments in health are saving lives and empowering communities. The members included Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., and Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill.
The three-day trip, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, was designed to highlight the successes of women who have been able to live longer, healthier and more productive lives. The group visited several health programs, which brings together innovative tools and services, such as community health volunteers, micro-savings and popular media, to provide a holistic approach to overcoming poverty.
Cambodia remains one of the poorest countries in the world; the World Bank reports more than 40 percent of the population lives under $2 a day. At the same time, Cambodia has experienced enormous economic growth. From 2004 to 2012, the Cambodian economy grew eight percent each year.
During the trip, the group traveled to Phnom Penh, Sre Ambel and Siem Reap to see up close how women in urban and rural areas are living with daily maternal, newborn and child health challenges. Their journey took them directly to the communities where they visited health centers and clinics and met with women’s groups and youth in need of health services. The U.S. government is the largest single donor in maternal and neonatal health in Cambodia, spending approximately $14 million each year.
“It’s critical for policymakers to meet the women and children behind the statistics to see how U.S. foreign assistance is working,” said David Ray, CARE’s Vice President of Advocacy. “Robust foreign investments in strong health systems create an environment for women and their families to thrive. When these women have access to quality health services, we are seeing not only families but entire communities lift themselves out of poverty.”
Two of the biggest challenges for women in getting healthcare remain the quality of services and access to the facilities, particularly for Cambodia’s predominantly young population and marginalized groups such as garment workers. Furthermore, nearly 80 percent of the population lives in rural areas where health facilities are not easily accessible.
The integration of comprehensive health services is also weak in the country. For example, the use of contraceptives after birth – one critical intervention in reducing maternal mortality rates – is rarely encouraged or discussed. Studies have shown that women who space their births three to five years apart not only have healthier babies, but are also more likely to survive pregnancy and childbirth.
Many times, when women can access modern health care, overall quality of care is deficient. Women and newborns also need the assistance of skilled health care providers at delivery, and those providers must be able to identify and respond quickly and effectively to complications.
The journey started in the capital of Phnom Penh where the group spoke to women who work in the garment factories. Garment-making is the biggest industry in Cambodia, employing around half a million people, mostly women. The industry accounts for over 70 percent of exports. CARE’s peer education project has provided sexual, reproductive and maternal health education to thousands of garment workers.
In the capital, the group also met actors and actresses from an innovative TV series funded by USAID and implemented by UNFPA and The BBC called Love9. The TV show address health issues such as HIV/AIDS and gender stereotypes to a young adult audience. In fact, Cambodia has the youngest population in Southeast Asia, with around two-thirds of people under the age of 30.
The delegation also explored the town of Sre Ambel in the western region of the country. The group saw two CARE programs that are linking women and children to better health outcomes. The first program utilized CARE’s signature microsavings programs – known as Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs)– to help women build their own successful small businesses and invest the profits in their health needs, such as doctor’s visits and medicine. The second program trained and mobilized community health workers to reach a greater number of mothers.
On the last day, the group stopped in Siem Riep, where the delegation visited a health center that is pioneering efforts for comprehensive health services. The Quality Health Services program, run by University Research Company, aims to improve reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health and nutrition services in 550 health centers and nine provinces across Cambodia.
Participants in CARE’s November 2014 Learning Tour to Cambodia included:
Representative Ander Crenshaw – U.S. Congress (R-FL-04)
Kitty Crenshaw – Wife of Representative Crenshaw
Le Dinh Dung – Head of the Government Relations & Public Policy Procter & Gamble Vietnam
Representative Kay Granger – U.S. Congress (R-TX-12)
Mr. Andrew Giles – Australian MP, Labor Member for Scullin, Victoria
Musimbi Kanyoro – President and CEO, Global Fund for Women
Anita McBride- Executive in Residence, School of Public Affairs at American University, Former Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to First Lady Laura Bush
Barbara Quigley – Wife of Representative Quigley
Representative Mike Quigley – U.S. Congress (D-IL-05)
David Ray – Vice President of Advocacy, CARE
Morgan Shoaff – Curator, Upworthy
Ellen H. Starbird – Director, Office of Population & Reproductive Health, Bureau for Global Health, USAID
Erica A. Striebel – Chief of Staff, Representative Ander Crenshaw (R-FL-04)
Tim Watts – Australian MP, Federal Labor Member for Gellibrand
For more information on CARE’s Learning Tours, visit www.care.org/LearningTours. The CARE Learning Tours program is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Founded in 1945, CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty. CARE places special focus on working alongside poor girls and women because, equipped with the proper resources, they have the power to lift whole families and entire communities out of poverty. Last year, CARE worked in 87 countries and reached more than 97 million people around the world.
Washington, D.C.: Stephanie Chen, CARE, firstname.lastname@example.org, (Office) +1-202-595-2824, (Cell) +1-404-819-6638