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Mother's Day: What are the best and worst countries for mothers?

Mother's Day provides an opportunity to look at the quality of life for mothers around the world. A recent study from Save the Children looks at data ranging from maternal mortality to education.

By Staff writer / May 8, 2011

A midwife holds up a baby as the mother looks on at a hospital in Farah City in Farah Province of Afghanistan in this August 10, 2009, file photo. In advance of Mother's Day, a study by Save the Children suggests that, by many measures, Afghanistan is the worst country in the world in which to be a mother.

Lucy Nicholson/REUTERS/file

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In Afghanistan, 1 in 11 women dies from pregnancy-related causes, compared with 1 in 7,600 in Norway, according to a study released just before Mother's Day by Save the Children.

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Save the Children ranked the best and worst places in the world to be a mother. The rankings reveal stark disparities around the globe when it comes to child and maternal mortality, health care, and education.

As people celebrate Mother’s Day, the report offers grim reminders of the realities that many women face.

In the bottom 10 countries ranked by the report, 1 out of every 6 children dies before the age of five, 1 out of 30 women die of pregnancy-related causes, fewer than 50 percent of births have a skilled attendant, and 1 out of 3 children suffers from malnutrition. The US didn’t fare very well either, ranking 31st out of 43 developed countries.

But the report also offers some encouraging news. Over the past two decades, worldwide child deaths have decreased from 12 million to 8 million. And the report emphasizes the effectiveness of US aid in helping to improve the situation for both mothers and their children in developing countries.

“The work that we’re doing globally, funded by the US government, is making a difference,” says Mary Beth Powers, chief of Save the Children’s Child Survival Campaign, who says she’s worried that budget concerns threaten some of those investments.

US making a difference worldwide

Most encouraging, she says, is that the tools are already there to make a difference: Things like training front-line health care workers, for instance, to recognize and treat common childhood diseases, or investing in midwifery schools in developing countries, can improve statistics dramatically.

“The hopeful piece of this is that we do know what to do,” says Ms. Powers. “We’re not racing for a cure, we have the cures in hand.”

On Tuesday, the State Department announced a new initiative aimed at the world’s mothers – the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA). A partnership between the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and Johnson & Johnson, the alliance will focus initially on Bangladesh, India, and South Africa, and plans to harness growing mobile-phone networks and other technology to get more resources and information into the hands of expectant and new mothers.

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