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.
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“Women in developing countries, some of the women most at risk for pregnancy-related problems, will be able to use their cell phones to get health information via text messages or voice mails, and the information can even be customized for the stage of pregnancy or the age of their children,” said Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in announcing the initiative. She highlighted the improvements that other investments by the US and UNICEF have made in maternal and child health, contributing to a decline of 30 percent in maternal deaths in 19 countries.Skip to next paragraph
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“This is one example of where we can really trace US government efforts that have made a difference in the lives of women, babies, and children,” Secretary Clinton said.
But problems at home
While the Save the Children index paints a particularly grim picture for women and children in sub-Saharan Africa and other developing countries, it highlights problems for the US as well.
One factor in America’s poor showing is its lifetime risk of maternal mortality – at 1 in 2,100, it’s the highest of any industrialized nation. In the US, a woman is more than 7 times as likely to die of pregnancy-related causes as a woman from Ireland, and 15 times more likely than a woman from Greece.
In addition, the under-5 mortality rate in the US is 8 out of 1,000 births – worse than 40 other countries. (In comparison, Norway’s rate is 3 out of 1,000 births.) The US also performed relatively poorly to other developed countries on indicators like preschool enrollment and maternal-leave policy.
“We aren’t making the investments that would improve childhood-mortality rates in this country,” says Powers. “Our government is considering cutting funding for preschool, and for underserved populations, and that’s where these pockets of deaths to mothers and children are happening, in impoverished communities.”
But the most striking picture that emerges from the report – and the rankings – are the vast discrepancies that exist for mothers and their children depending on where they live.
In Norway, at the top of the rankings, a typical woman lives to be 83 years old and has 18 years of formal education. Just 1 in 175 women will lose a child before he or she turns five, and nearly every woman has a skilled attendant when she gives birth.
In Afghanistan, at the bottom, only 14 percent of births have skilled attendants, and 1 child out of 5 dies before the age of 5 – meaning that almost every mother will suffer the loss of a child. The typical Afghani woman will die before she turns 45, and has fewer than five years of education.
“In Afghanistan,” notes Powers, “it is still more risky to give birth than ... fighting in Afghanistan.”