Mothers and their children in Niger, which was ranked lowest in Save the… (Evelyn Hockstein/Polaris/For…)
The aid organization Save the Children released its annual State of the World’s Mothers report Tuesday. Once again, conditions for moms in the U.S. trailed that of many other developed nations. The country’s position climbed six places to 25th, sandwiched between Belarus and the Czech Republic.
Save the Children’s 2012 rankings compare 165 countries — 122 in the developing world — examining maternal health, education and economic status alongside the health and nutrition of children. The group turns its attention to mothers because “the quality of children’s lives depends on the health, security and well-being of their mothers,” the organization said, in a statement.
Norway came out on top. Niger — where, Save the Children reported, a typical girl gets only four years of education, is likely to lose a child at some point during her life, and has a life expentancy of only 56 — was ranked lowest. The West African nation replaced Afghanistan at the bottom. That war-torn country was last on the list in 2010 and 2011 but has recently had significant improvements in life expectancy, child mortality and educational opportunities, the group said. In 2000, for example, only 20% of Afghan children were enrolled in school. Today, 97% are.
In general, mothers in the worst places to live don’t have access to education, medical treatment (including during childbirth) and nutrition. In contrast, highly ranked countries such as Norway, Iceland and Sweden have good healthcare and educational systems and offer women ample access to contraception, maternity benefits and equitable pay.
The United States performs relatively poorly among the 43 developed nations in the rankings because mothers here have a 1 in 2,100 risk of pregnancy-related death — the worst of any industrialized nation, Save the Children said. The United States ranked 41st in child mortality. Women in the U.S. have relatively low political status, and children here aren’t enrolled in preschool as often as in other countries. The U.S. is one of the few countries in the world that doesn’t guarantee working mothers paid leave, the group said.
Malnutrition is a major problem in the lowest-ranking countries, Save the Children reported in its statement, with seven of the bottom 10 countries in “food crisis.” The organization is calling on the leaders of G8 countries, which will be meeting at Camp David later this month, to take a look at chronic malnutrition.
Among Save the Children’s recommendations: help more women in developing nations breast feed. “Our research shows that a mother’s breast milk — one single nutrition intervention — can save a million children’s lives a year,” said Save the Children Chief Executive Carolyn Miles.
In February, The Los Angeles Times reported another report from Save the Children, addressing malnutrition.