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Caring for Bodies & Souls

Maternal and Child Health Programs in Cambodia

Story by Samaritan’s Purse May 13th, 2016

A Generation Lost

In the 1970s, the militant Khmer Rouge tore through Cambodia and wiped out a generation of educated citizens. In the aftermath of the genocide, many women were left in the dark, struggling without any basic knowledge of how to take care of their children.

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Tens of thousands of the educated class were imprisoned and killed at Tuol Sleng, a school in Phnom Penh that was converted into a prison.

Hope Renewed

Slowly but surely, like a new dawn, healing is coming to Cambodia. With help from Samaritan’s Purse, mothers living in the impoverished Kratie Province are learning how to care for themselves and their children. We’re also providing opportunities for obstetric care and nutrition education.

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Many women in Kratie have had at least one child die because they lack access to basic healthcare. Hospitals can be hours away from their remote villages. Transportation to a hospital, especially during labor, often brings enormous challenge and risk for expectant mothers.

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The Mekong River is an important part of life in Kratie, providing an option for travel when road conditions are difficult.
To give birth at a safe location, Mok Pheakvy faces a long boat ride and difficult climb up and down the steep river banks.

Safe Havens

To help reduce Cambodia’s high infant mortality rates, Samaritan’s Purse built seven community birthing centers in rural areas around Kratie Province. The centers are attached to existing government health centers, where we also train the staff midwives to help make labor and delivery safe for women and babies.

Our birthing centers offer women an accessible, safe place to deliver their babies.
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Traditional belief holds that if the mother eats lots of pork after giving birth her baby will be healthy and strong.
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Family members can stay at the birthing centers with expectant mothers, providing food and support.
A midwife checks the heartbeat of Sokny's baby.
Midwives at the community birthing centers receive training from Samaritan's Purse to assist women with safe labor and delivery.
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Opening Doors

Our work begins with physical relief, which provides a platform to share the Gospel with mothers and families. Many mothers we meet in Kratie have never heard about Jesus. About 95 percent of Cambodians are Buddhists, and because of the country’s high infant mortality rate, many parents place their hope in traditional superstitions to keep their babies safe. Our staff does everything in the Name of Jesus, as we offer physical and spiritual comfort to mothers who need the hope of Christ.

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Parents in predominantly Buddhist Cambodia tie a string necklace around the baby's neck to keep away evil spirits.
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Samaritan's Purse staff prays with parents who trusted in Jesus Christ as their Savior.
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Nourishing Care

Our maternal and child health programs also include nutrition education. Samaritan’s Purse staff in Kratie travel from home to home throughout different villages, identifying malnourished children and teaching mothers how to cook nutritious meals.

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Our staff visits families in their homes to provide training.
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Our staff met Sor Samy and her daughter, Sekat, during a nutrition screening. Four-year-old Sekat was malnourished and not gaining weight. Our staff taught Samy how to cook meals with proteins and vegetables to help her daughter become healthier. We also shared the Gospel with Samy, who heard about Jesus for the first time in her life. Samy now trusts in Jesus Christ.

Sor Samy, center, prepares fish porridge with Samaritan's Purse staff as her 4-year-old daughter, Sekat, watches.
Vegetables provide important vitamins to help malnourished children grow and stay healthy.
Traditional Cambodian kitchens are open rooms either attached to or under the house.
Rice is a staple in the Cambodian diet, but many families eat plain white rice, which cannot supply all the nutrients essential for growth.
Our staff teach mothers that eating fish and eggs are easy ways to add essential proteins to a meal.
Squash is a great source of vitamins and fiber.
Samy now feeds Sekat the fish porridge - made with leafy greens, eggs, squash and rice - about twice a week.
Samy proudly displays the finished fish porridge.
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As we provide nutrition education, we also train mothers in proper hygiene, including washing dishes.
Sekat is now eating nutritious meals and living a healthier lifestyle.

A Bright Future

We want Cambodian women to view pregnancy and giving birth as joyous occasions. We pray motherhood is not something to be feared, but is a time to celebrate God’s gift of life. As we reach them with the basics of nourishing their bodies alongside their souls, please pray for many more mothers in Kratie to turn from Buddhism and believe in Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life.

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Krong Kracheh, Kratie, Cambodia
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