Mothers report card: US still lagging at home and as a donor

In a new ranking of the world’s best and worst places to be a mother the United States rates 31st. And its precious aid dollars to poor countries are up for grabs.

ZUMA Press/Newscom/file
Mothers with their babies and toddlers in line for a medical check at a refugee camp in Uganda.

With Mother's Day coming this weekend, the international aid group Save the Children today issued its 12th annual State of the World's Mothers report.

Norway ranks No. 1 as having the best overall conditions for mothers; Australia and Iceland rank No. 2 and 3. At the bottom, Afghanistan ranks No. 164 and last, though, as might be expected, sub-Saharan African countries holds down eight of the bottom 10 spots.

The United States? It comes in at a mediocre No. 31.

The rankings are based on factors such as mortality rates for mothers and their children, women's life expectancy, and women's levels of education. The US maternal mortality rate of 1 in 2,100 is among the highest of any developed nation.

Though conditions for mothers and children worldwide, including access to basic health care, clean water, and nutrition, have improved in recent years, some 22,000 children still perish each day, largely from preventable or treatable causes, the report says.

Meanwhile, the US spends only about 1/200th of its federal budget on programs to help alleviate poverty and on other humanitarian programs worldwide, it adds.

Besides being a moral obligation, humanitarian aid is also in the national interest of the United States, the report says. Such programs show a compassionate side to US foreign policy and can win friends for the US around the world, making the US more secure. And as developing countries become healthier and wealthier they also become better markets for US-made products and services.

In a forward, two former members of Congress – one a Republican and one a Democrat – urge bipartisan support for humanitarian aid to mothers and children. "As Congress and the Administration face tough choices about future funding for international programs, let’s work together to give the gift too many mothers still want most – the basic health care that will save their child’s life," say Bill Frist, former majority leader of the US Senate, and Jon Corzine, a former Democratic senator from New Jersey.

Improving the lot of mothers and children also breeds favorable conditions for the growth of democracy, adds Rep. Donald Payne (D) of New Jersey, ranking member of the subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights. “Where health and education levels rise, democracy and good governance grow.”

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