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Where's The Best Place To Be A Mother? And Where's The Worst?

Save The Children has released this year’s State of the World’s Mothers report which ranks countries according to where it’s best and worst to be a mother.  Number one? Norway. Number two? Australia. The last place you’d want to be a mother? Afghanistan. In fact, women in Afghanistan are 200 times more likely to die giving birth than as the result of gun fire or bombing. The US ranks #31 of 43 developed countries and comes in last place for maternal mortality in the entire developed world. Sigh.

The overall rankings are based on factors such as women’s health and life expectancy,  educational, economic and political status, as well as children’s health and education. Specifically they looked at things like maternal mortality, maternity benefits, percentage of women using modern contraception, under-5 mortality rate and ratio of male to female earnings.

Here’s the list:

These are the 43 Developed Nations included in the report, in order from best to worst:
Norway
Australia
Iceland
Sweden
Denmark
New Zealand
Finland
Belgium
Netherlands
France
Germany
Spain
United Kingdom
Portugal
Switzerland
Ireland
Slovenia
Estonia
Greece
Canada
Italy
Hungary
Lithuania
Czech Republic
Latvia
Austria
Croatia
Japan
Poland
Slovakia
United States (#31)
Luxembourg
Belarus
Malta
Bulgaria
Romania
Serbia
Russian federation
Ukraine
Moldova, Republic of
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Macedonia
Albania

Here are the ten lowest ranking countries in the world:

Central African Republic
Sudan
Mali
Eritrea
DR congo
Chad
Yemen
Guinea-Bissau
Niger
Afghanistan

I want to quote extensively here because it’s important for Americans to understand why we’re so far behind other developed countries. Here’s the FAQ section from the report that addresses the US:

“Why doesn’t the United States do better in the rankings? The United States ranked 31st this year based on several factors:”

One of the key indicators used to calculate well- being for mothers is lifetime risk of maternal mortality. The United States’ rate for maternal mortality is 1 in 2,100 the highest of any industrialized nation. In fact, only three Tier I developed countries Albania, the Russian Federation and Moldova performed worse than the United States on this indicator. A woman in the U.S. is more than 7 times as likely as a woman in Italy or Ireland to die from pregnancy-related causes and her risk of maternal death is 15-fold that of a woman in Greece.

Similarly, the United States does not do as well as most other developed countries with regard to under-5 mortality. The U.S. under-5 mortality rate is 8 per 1,000 births. This is on par with rates in Latvia. Forty countries performed better than the U.S. on this indicator. At this rate, a child in the U.S. is more than twice as likely as a child in Finland, Greece, Iceland, Japan, Luxembourg, Nor- way, Slovenia, Singapore or Sweden to die before reaching age 5.

Only 58 percent of children in the United States are enrolled in preschool making it the fifth lowest country in the developed world on this indicator.

The United States has the least generous maternity leave policy both in terms of duration and percent of wages paid of any wealthy nation.

The United States is also lagging behind with regard to the political status of women. Only 17 percent of congressional seats are held by women, compared to 45 percent in Sweden and 43 percent in Iceland.

The report comes out in time for Mother’s Day and in conjunction with a huge, important awareness-raising campaign involving several organizations, including the Gates Foundation and Every Mother Counts, about the risks mothers and children are facing all over the world. Obviously there are many, many countries in far worse shape than America, but given all of our resources it’s disturbing that we rank so low. Maybe this Mother’s Day, after we treat the mothers in our own families to some extra love, we can all donate even a small amount of money to Save The Children or another organization seeking to help conditions for mothers and babies all over the world. This report also shows that countries receiving aid do show improvement. As for how to solve our problems back home, that”ll require another post….or a hundred posts. And a prayer.

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