Norway and Australia are the best nations in the world to have children and Afghanistan is the worst, according to an annual Mothers’ Index published by Save the Children. The United States’ rank fell to 28th place, putting it behind countries such as Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
The 11th annual Save the Children Index, which ranks the best and worst places to be a mother, looks at the health and well-being of women and children in 160 countries, including access to education, economic opportunities, and health care.
Last year the list was headed by Sweden, but for 2010, Norway came first followed by Australia, Iceland, Sweden and Denmark with New Zealand, Finland, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany rounding out the top 10.
Afghanistan ranked last. Niger, Chad, Guinea-Bissau, Yemen, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Sudan, Eritrea and Equatorial Guinea rounded out the bottom 10.
It would be easy to dismiss the ranking as just a gimmick, but the point of the index is to draw attention to dire conditions for women and children around the world. Nearly 350,000 women die during pregnancy or childbirth every year and nearly 9 million children die before their fifth birthday.
In the bottom 10 countries, conditions for mothers and children are grim. On average, 1 in 23 mothers will die from pregnancy-related causes. One child in 6 dies before his or her fifth birthday and 1 child in 3 suffers from malnutrition, according to a statement from Save the Children.
In contrast, in Finland, Iceland, Luxembourg and Sweden only one child in 333 dies before age 5.
In Niger one woman in every seven dies in childbirth, while the risk is less than 1 in 47,600 in Ireland.
While we’ve got it relatively good in the United States, we’ve still got plenty of room for improvement. In fact, our spot on the list dipped from last year’s 27 to 28 this year. Our rate for maternal mortality — 1 in 4,800 — is one of the highest in the developed world.
The U.S. also scored poorly on under-5 mortality. Its rate of 8 per 1,000 births puts the U.S. on a par with Slovakia and Montenegro.
“At this rate, a child in the US is more than twice as likely as a child in Finland, Iceland, Sweden or Singapore to die before his or her fifth birthday,” the report noted.
The U.S. also offers the least generous maternity leave — in terms of duration and wages paid — of any wealthy nation.
Save the Children has launched “See Where the Good Goes,” a new public service ad campaign designed to educate how basic health care services and better nutrition habits can save moms and babies around the world.
Photo: Save the Children