A Mother’s Day Report Card: The Best – And Worst – Countries to Be a Mother

May 4, 2004 | Save the Children

[ “[A] mother in the bottom ten countries is 26 times more likely to see her child die in the first year of life and 750 times more likely to die herself in pregnancy or childbirth than a mother in the top ten countries.” ]

May 4, 2004 | Save the Children

Westport, CT (May 4, 2004) — Save the Children, a U.S.-based independent global humanitarian organization, released today its State of the World’s Mothers 2004 report that identifies the best — and worst — countries to be a mother.

The report’s fifth annual Mothers’ Index ranks the well-being of mothers in 119 countries based on their health, education and political status. The Index also looks at five-year regional trends that have emerged since Save the Children issued its first report in 2000.

The complete report is available by clicking here

The Mothers’ Index

Top 10 Countries
1. Sweden
2. Denmark, Finland*
4. Austria, Netherlands*
6. Norway
7. Australia, Canada*
9. United Kingdom
10. United States

Bottom 10 Countries
119. Niger
118. Burkina Faso
116. Ethiopia, Mali*
115. Guinea-Bissau
112. Chad, Sierra Leone, Yemen*
110. Central African Republic, Mauritania*

“This year’s report marks a milestone for Save the Children,” said Charles MacCormack, President and CEO of Save the Children. “Five years ago, we issued our first State of the World’s Mothers report documenting conditions for mothers and their children in more than 100 countries. Over the past five years, our annual Mothers’ Indexes have shown consistently that in those countries where mothers are able to survive and thrive, so can their children.”

Among the major findings in the 2004 Mothers’ Index:

  • Compared to a mother in the top 10 countries, a mother in the bottom 10 countries is 26 times more likely to see her child die in the first year of life and 750 times more likely to die herself in pregnancy or childbirth.
  • In the bottom 10 countries, 1 out of 3 children is not enrolled in school, and only 1 out of 4 adult women are literate. In the top 10 countries, virtually all children go to school and all women are literate.
  • Trained health personnel in Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Nepal attend fewer than 15 percent of births.
  • Fewer than 5 percent of women use modern contraception in Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Eritrea, Guinea-Bissau, Niger and Sierra Leone.

KEY FACTORS: The Index identifies a mother’s level of education, her access to family planning services, and the presence of a skilled attendant at birth as most strongly associated with infant survival and well-being.

  • Women who are educated are more likely to postpone marriage and early childbirth, seek health care for themselves and their families, and encourage all of their children, including girls, to go to school.
  • As contraceptive use rises, and mothers are able to space their births at healthy intervals, deaths among mothers and children decline. For example, in the United States, where 71 percent of women use modern birth control, 1 in 2,500 mothers dies in childbirth and 7 out of 1,000 infants do not make it to their first birthday. Compare this to Mali, where 6 percent of women use birth control, 1 in 10 mothers dies in childbirth, and 1 in 8 infants dies before reaching age one.
  • The Index exposes an enormous gap between the highest- and lowest-scoring countries and underscores an urgent need to address this divide. For instance, in Sweden, which tops the list, more than 99 percent of women are literate. In contrast, in Niger, only 9 percent of women are literate. And a mother in Ethiopia is 38 times more likely to see her child die in the first year of life than a mother in Sweden.

Five-Year Trends:

  • Industrialized nations, particularly Scandinavian countries, dominate the top-tier rankings.
  • Several Latin American countries — including Chile, Costa Rica and Cuba — are approaching developed nations in certain aspects of women’s and children’s well-being.
  • Parts of Central and Eastern Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Baltic States show improvements in women’s and children’s health status.
  • Sub-Saharan African countries have consistently ranked at the bottom of the Index, partly due to ongoing or post-conflict situations in these areas.

BACKGROUND: The status of mothers was compared in 119 countries based on six indicators of women’s well-being (lifetime risk of maternal mortality, percent of women using modern contraception, percent of births attended by trained personnel, percent of pregnant women with anemia, adult female literacy rate, and participation of women in national government) and four indicators of children’s well-being (infant mortality rate, gross primary enrollment rate, percent of population with access to safe water, and percent of children under age 5 suffering from moderate or severe nutritional wasting).

Read more about the State of the World’s Mothers 2004 report

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