In a corner of her wooden house, 18-year-old Dam Siv Lean is breast-feeding her three-day-old baby boy. When asked about her treatment at the health center, she smiles and says, “The nurses were nice. Their kind words calmed me down when I was in so much pain.”
Siv Lean went to Pechreada Health Center in Mondulkiri province to deliver her first child. Her family belongs to the Punung ethnic group, and they are among the poorest in their community. They grow their own rice, but this only feeds the family of five for a few months. Siv Lean and her husband work as day laborers for their neighbors when they have the opportunity, making about US$5 per day.
Due to their low income, Siv Lean’s family got an identification card for the poor, which allows them to access resources from the Health Equity Fund (HEF) for free medical treatment. The HEF covered all her delivery expenses at the Pechreada Health Center. Without this fund, she would have borrowed from local money lenders at a very high interest rate.
“People in this area are from ethnic minority groups and many of them are poor. The Health Equity Fund is a great benefit and helps to reduce the rate of illness and death in the community,” said Chang Khun, Chief of Pechreada Health Center. He explained that the HEF is encouraging poor people to use the health center, which they previously could not afford.
HEF is part of the Health Equity and Quality Improvement Project (H-EQIP), which aims to improve access to quality health services. Each year, the HEF supports free access to over 2 million outpatient visits and over 100,000 hospital admissions for the poorest people in Cambodia, nationwide and across all public health facilities in the country.