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US Scores Low On Motherhood Rankings

May 4, 2010

A charity group’s list has placed the United States at a meager 28th place on a list of the best countries in the world to be a mother, being shown up by many smaller and more underdeveloped countries.

The latest Save the Children “Mothers Index” placed Norway at the top of the list, followed by several other developed countries. Afghanistan ranked the worst, with several African states close behind.

Several poorer countries, including the Baltic states, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania ranked higher than the United States. The European states of Croatia and Slovenia also ranked higher than the US.

One major factor in dragging the US ranking down is the maternal mortality rate. At 1 in 4,800, the US has one of the highest mortality rates in the developed world, according to the report.

“A woman in the Unites States is more than five times as likely as a woman in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece or Italy to die from pregnancy-related causes in her lifetime and her risk of maternal death is nearly 10-fold that of a woman in Ireland,” the report said.

The US also scored poorly with the under-five mortality with a rate of 1 in 125 births. “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.

Other factors that have dragged the ranking down for the nation, are smaller numbers of children enrolled in preschool, and the US having the least generous maternity leave policy, which includes both in terms of duration and percent of wages paid. The US’s policy on maternity leave is lower than any wealthy nation.

The top five countries leading the way on the Save the Children list are: Norway, Australia, Iceland, Sweden and Denmark. Rounding out the top ten is New Zealand, Finland, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany.

“While the situation in the United States needs to improve, mothers in the developing world are facing far greater risks to their own health and that of their children,” said Save the Children’s Mary Beth Powers.

“The shortage of skilled birth attendants and challenges in accessing birth control means that women in countries at the bottom of the list face the most pregnancies and the most risky birth situations, resulting in newborn and maternal deaths,” she told AFP.

The Mothers Index list was compiled after analyzing a number of factors affecting the health and well-being of women and children. The factors include access to healthcare, education and economic opportunities.

Norway took the top spot because women there are paid well, they have easy access to contraception and the country’s maternity leave policies are among the best in the world.

In underdeveloped and developing countries, funding for women’s and girl’s education needs top priority along with child health care, the report recommended.

The report called for governments in industrialized nations, including the United States, to work together to improve education and health for disadvantaged mothers and children.
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