We know we live in the lucky country, but sometimes it’s easy to forget how good we really do have it – especially compared with other mums around the world.
Australia is among the top 10 countries to be a mother, according to a recent report by Save the Children. Its State of the World’s Mothers report put Australia equal ninth with Belgium – and we were the only country outside Europe to make the grade.
Australia’s low maternal and infant mortality rates, high number of schooling years, income and political landscape makes it a good place to be a mum. Finland, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Netherlands, Denmark, Spain and Germany were the only places to rate better on the index. New Zealand was 16th, the UK at number 26 and the US came in at 31 – a dramatic fall from fifth place 15 years ago.
At the other end of the scale, Ivory Coast is the worst place to be a mother. It is followed by Chad, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia. The report says conditions for mothers and children in these countries are “grim”. On average, one in every 27 women dies during pregnancy and one in seven children dies before their fifth birthday.
Unsurprisingly, Save the Children says the worst places to be a mother are those riddled with conflict, shaky governments or natural disaster. Its report says each day about 800 mothers and 18,000 children under five die from largely preventable causes – more than half of those in “fragile” settings. Niger and the Congo alone account for 20 percent of all global child deaths, while one third of deaths are in South Asia. Statistically, it is more dangerous to be a woman or child in the Democratic Republic of Congo than an armed fighter.
It says as well as helping countries better prepare to help mums and children in emergencies, the international community should work towards providing stability in hostile regions. The report also calls for more access to high-quality healthcare for mums and newborns in crises and investment in violence-protection strategies and education for women and girls.
Save the Children president and chief executive Carolyn Miles says nothing will stop a mother from trying to protect her children. “But when disaster strikes, whether it’s a war in Syria, a tornado in Oklahoma or a typhoon in the Philippines, women and children are often at the greatest risk – up to 14 times more likely to die than men. Fortunately, our evidence also shows we can save and dramatically improve the lives of mothers and children, even in the most challenging places to live, if we invest in the services they need,” she says.
There are some positive signs. Afghanistan ranked as the worst place to be a mother in 2010 and 2011 but has moved up 32 places in the rankings thanks to its investment in midwife training, changes to education policies to allow more girls to attend school, immunisation programs and other health measures. Last month, the World Health Assembly approved the Every Newborn Action Plan, which will work towards ending preventable deaths particularly in fragile regions.