Mothers in Norway, Australia have best lives, Afghanistan worst

Tue May 4, 2010 7:50am EDT
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SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - Mothers in Norway and Australia are in the best nations in the world to bring up their children while mothers in Afghanistan and many African nations fare worst, according to an annual Mothers' Index.

The 11th annual Save The Children index, which ranks the best and worst places to be a mother, looks at the well-being of women and children in 160 countries which includes access to education, economic opportunities, and health care.

The list last year was headed by Sweden but for 2010 Norway came first followed by Australia, Iceland, Sweden and Denmark with New Zealand, Finland, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany rounding out the top 10.

In the bottom 10, Afghanistan ranked last preceded by Niger, Chad, Guinea-Bissau, Yemen, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Sudan, Eritrea and Equatorial Guinea. In 2009 Niger was last.

The 2010 list of 43 developed nations and 117 in the developing world highlighted the fact that nearly 350,000 women die during pregnancy or childbirth every year and nearly 9 million children die before their fifth birthday.

"Conditions for mothers and their children in the bottom 10 countries are grim. On average, 1 in 23 mothers will die from pregnancy-related causes. One child in 6 dies before his or her fifth birthday, and 1 child in 3 suffers from malnutrition," said a statement from Save The Children.

The United States came 28th in the list, down from 27 last year, largely as its rate for maternal mortality -- 1 in 4,800 -- is one of the highest in the developed world. The United States also offers less maternity leave than other wealthy nations.

"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," Mary Beth Powers, vice-chair of Save The Children's Every One campaign, said in a statement.

"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."   Continued...

<p>An unidentified mother and her baby play at home in London April 26, 2001. REUTERS/Kieran Doherty</p>