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UK slipping down world rankings for motherhood

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The UK has slipped in the rankings of the best place in the world to be a mother, according to a report by Save the Children.

Out of 178 countries surveyed for the aid agency’s State of the World’s Mothers Index, the UK tied in 26th place with Belarus. Last year the UK was ranked in 23rd place.

Finland, Norway and Sweden came in at numbers one, two and three. The United States ranks 31st.

“The report calls for a skilled health worker to be present at every birth”

Justin Forsyth

Armed conflict, political instability and natural disasters played a key part in eroding the lifestyles and well-being of mothers and children in the world’s poorest countries, according to Save the Children’s 15th annual State of the World’s Mothers report.

Trouble-hit nations in Africa fill the bottom slots with Somalia ranked at 178, behind the Democratic Republic of the Congo at 177 and Mali and Niger, which were both placed at 175.

Armed violence has torn apart the lives of millions of mothers and children in countries like Syria, which is ranked at 115, and the Central African Republic, which came in at 173.

They face a crisis which has displaced many inside their own borders or to flee to try and survive in a neighbouring nation. Evidence of violence against girls and women in Syria is also mounting, with young refugee girls at increasing risk of early and forced marriages in neighbouring countries.

Data from sources such as UN agencies is used by Save the Children to create the index. Countries are then ranked on five key factors - risk of maternal death, under five mortality rate, educational status, economic achievement and political status.

High risk pregnancies in the UK are thought to be linked to obesity, IVF, social deprivation, multiple pregnancies as well as increased maternal age and poorer access to healthcare, especially in some ethnic minority communities and among asylum seekers, the charity notes.

Advances in healthcare, including the control of infectious diseases, improved public health infrastructure and better midwifery and neonatal intensive care has also seen decreases in the numbers of infant deaths, according to Save the Children.

The aid agency also stated its concerns about the prospects of some mothers in some wealthy nations.

It points out that in the US, the risk that a 15-year-old girl will die during her lifetime from a pregnancy-related cause has increased by over 50% since 2000, from one in 3,700 to one in 2,400. American women face the same risk of maternal death as those in Iran or Romania.

Each day 800 mothers and 18,000 young children die from largely preventable causes, the report states. Over half of these maternal and under-5 deaths take place “in fragile settings, which are at high risk of conflict and are particularly vulnerable to the effects of natural disasters”.

A woman from Chad, which was ranked at 170, has a one in 15 likelihood to die because of a pregnancy, compared to a Swedish woman who has a one in 14,100, according to Save the Children

A child in Sierra Leone has one chance in five of not reaching his or her fifth birthday but for an Icelandic child, this risk is one in 435.

War-torn Afghanistan was ranked at 146 thanks to the “enormous progress in recent years to cut child and maternal death,” according to Save the Children chief executive Justin Forsyth.

Save the Children

Justin Forsyth

He added: “The tragedy is that in countries like the Democratic Republic Congo you are statistically more likely to die if you are a woman or child than if you are an armed fighter.

“This report warns that these women and children must not be written off. Their chances of survival depend on access to midwives. The report calls for a skilled health worker to be present at every birth,” he added.

The report states: “It’s no surprise that the 10 toughest places to be a mother in this year’s Mothers’ Index all have a recent history of armed conflict and are considered to be fragile states. Six of the bottom 10 countries suffer from recurring natural disasters.

“And, as usual, the poorest mothers have it the hardest. The report once again points out the disheartening disparity between mothers in rich and poor countries.

“In places affected by humanitarian crises, the vast majority of children’s deaths occur due to crumbling infrastructure, a lack of basic health services or a skilled heath worker during childbirth.

“Livelihoods are disrupted, if not totally destroyed, and mothers may find it impossible to adequately feed and support their families. They and their children also become more vulnerable to the risks of exploitation, sexual abuse and physical danger.

“So the tragedy of the crisis itself is compounded by fear and uncertainty, making mothers feel helpless.”

The report concludes that “every country must be better prepared to assist mothers and children in emergencies”.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • It's terrible for mums and kids in these war-torn places but I wonder if, here in the UK, abortions, esp multiple abortions are contributing to the poor risk of pregnancy and increased risk of difficulties IN pregnancy and in delivering live, normal babies. These risks are not told women seeking to terminate their pregnancy. I think that is unfair and very bad practice. In other areas of medicine, esp surgical procedures, ALL the risks are given, in writing, so that an informed decision can be made.

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