Save the Children’s State of the World’s Mothers report lists the best and worst places to be a mother in today’s world
Norway tops the list; Afghanistan comes bottom followed by Niger, Guinea-Bissau, Yemen, Chad, DR Congo, Eritrea, Mali, Sudan and the Central African Republic.
"In many countries, vaccines, antibiotics, and care during pregnancy are hard to reach and as a result child and maternal death rates are very high," said the charity’s Mary Beth Powers.
Conditions for mothers in the bottom countries are grim. On average, the report says, one woman in 30 will die from pregnancy-related causes. One child in six dies before his or her fifth birthday, and one child in three suffers from malnutrition.
Looking at the gap between the safest and most dangerous places to give birth, the report says: "Statistics are far more than numbers. It is the human despair and lost opportunities behind these numbers that call for changes to ensure that mothers everywhere have the basic tools they need to break the cycle of poverty and improve the quality of life for themselves, their children, and for generations to come."
There is also a global shortage of 350,000 midwives, the report reveals, which means that women and their newborn babies die from complications that normally a health worker with the right skills, equipment and support, would be able to prevent.
"More than one in three women in developing countries give birth alone,” said the United Nations Population Fund’s Babatunde Osotimehin, “or with only relatives to oversee what is one of the most dangerous passages they will ever undergo. In some of the poorest countries, as few as 13 per cent of all deliveries are assisted by a midwife or a health worker with midwifery skills," Osotimehin said.
Money, surprisingly isn't always the key factor in improving the lives of mothers and their babies, said Save the Children, which notes that Malawi in south east Africa has made really good progress with maternal health in recent years.
Malawi, working with the US Agency for International Development and other international organisations, has set up a ‘homegrown’ focus where community health workers provide services in areas where doctors and nurses are unavailable. In cut-off areas, people are now educated about baby and child health and offered de-worming, vaccinations, insecticide-treated mosquito nets and information about better sanitation habits.