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The Samlot community's baby-friendly practices

Sokha and her one-year-old daughter, Anita.
Sokha and her one-year-old daughter, Anita.

Sokha met her husband, Meas, in the adjoining fields they farmed in rural northeast Cambodia. The year was 1999. Sokha was 19; Meas, 21. The courtship culminated in marriage two years later. First, they were growing beans and corn together; next, they were cultivating a family.

Sokha, now 33, recalls those days surrounded by her three daughters at the family’s home in the Samlot community. The busy mother holds her youngest, one-year-old Anita, while Reaksa, 9, and Kheima, 5, play, laughing and smiling.

Sokha and Meas planned on having three children, but not all their daughters’ births were carefree. Sokha credits the World Vision maternal health projects in her community for making Anita’s birth a much smoother and scare-free event. Particularly helpful, Sokha says, was the prenatal education she received along with access to a World Vision-supported health centre where her youngest was born.

The whole Samlot community has benefited from the health projects for expecting and new moms. These projects have led to an almost 10 per cent reduction in stunting in children under five years of age and a 30 per cent increase in the use of iron supplements, which helps decrease the prevalence of childhood anemia.

There’s still more work to be done—most pressing is lowering malnutrition rates—but the early success is progress.

A neat name
Remembering back to Anita’s birth, Sokha says she was relieved to be at the health centre. “I was scared when I gave birth to Reaksa and Kheima at home. I gave birth before my due date with Kheima. I was very afraid,” she says. “Fortunately, my husband came home early that day. He called the midwife to come to our home. And fortunately, everything went okay during the delivery.”

Meas, 35, was also fearful during the births of his first two children. “I was afraid Sokha’s life was in danger.” But when she gave birth to Anita, Meas was much more calm for the same reason his wife was. “I am happy to have the health centre here. Especially for my daughters.”

Sokha trusts the doctors and nurses who work at the health centre. “They have the skills to treat people,” she says. Her trust extends to the midwife who has delivered all three of her children and also gave Anita her name. “I love that name,” says Khud Lim, 56, who delivered her. “It means gentle, kind and respectful.” Khud has been a midwife since she was 16. When World Vision moved into the community, she received training to improve her practices. Khud says that the health centre has been a major help in ensuring safe births.

Sokha and Meas’s family, from left: Kheima, 5; Reaksa, 9; Sokha, 33; Anita, 1; Meas, 36.

Free ed
What’s more, Sokha is helping educate women in her community. She now volunteers, teaching expectant mothers how to have a healthy pregnancy and take care of their newborns when they arrive. She volunteers because she wants to help all children to be healthy.

In addition to the benefits of the health projects, sponsorship has helped Reaksa and Kheima. This school year, Reaksa began Grade 5, while Kheima started Grade 1. Meas hopes his daughters go on to college. “I don’t want them working under the sunlight. It is very hard,” he says. Meas and Sokha both know that. For them, fieldwork was made easier only when they found each other.


This article was published on March 28, 2014.




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