Building an Economy that Works for Everyone

Where is the best place to be a mother? Not the U.S.

[Cross-posted from Washington Work and Family Coalition] | By : USA Today

Norway’s health, education, family and workplace policies make it one of the best places in the world to be a mother – or a child. [Photo: Asbjorn Floden/Flickr Creative Commons]

Where’s the best place in the world to be a mother? Norway, according to a report released by Save the Children. Iceland and Sweden came in respectively at second and third.

The Best and Worst Places to Be a Mom” report compared factors such as maternal health, education and economic status, and childhood health and nutrition in 165 countries.

We Americans have to scroll past several other countries before we find ourselves on the list. Right there at #25 between Belarus and the Czech Republic.

The good news: It’s better than last year’s #31. The bad (or worse) news: Of the countries ranked, only 43 are developed countries — or U.S. peers.

“While the US has moved up in the rankings, ahead of last year’s 31st place, we still fall below most wealthy nations,” said Carolyn Miles, president and CEO of Save the Children, in a commentary accompanying the report.

She cited relatively poor health prospects for mothers as well as lower political status and low levels of preschool enrollment as pushing the U.S. down on the list.

Save the Children officials said they focused on mother’s well-being in particular because “the quality of children’s lives depends on the health, security and well-being of their mothers. In short, providing mothers with access to education, economic opportunities and maternal and child health care, gives mothers and their children the best chance to survive and thrive.”

Though the U.S. rank is troubling, the report’s findings are more alarming for the disparities they reveal between rich and poor countries.

Relying on data from government agencies, research institutions and international agencies, the outcomes show the top countries to be mostly European while the worst tend to be in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The worst country this year was Niger, gaining that terrible distinction from Afghanistan. From the report:

“The contrast between the top-ranked country, Norway, and the lowest-ranked country, Niger, is striking. Skilled health personnel are present at virtually every birth in Norway, while only 1 in 3 births are attended in Niger. In Norway, nearly 40 percent of parliamentary seats are held by women, in Niger only 13 percent are. A typical Norwegian girl can expect to receive 18 years of formal education and will live to be over 83 years old. Eighty-two percent of women are using some modern method of contraception, and only 1 in 175 is likely to lose a child before his or her fifth birthday. At the opposite end of the spectrum, in Niger, a typical girl receives only 4 years of education and lives to only 56. Only five percent of women are using modern contraception, and 1 child in 7 dies before his or her fifth birthday. At this rate, every mother in Niger is likely to suffer the loss of a child. “

It goes on to conclude:

“Statistics are far more than numbers. It is the human despair and lost opportunities behind these numbers that call for changes to ensure that mothers everywhere have the basic tools they need to break the cycle of poverty and improve the quality of life for themselves, their children, and for generations to come.”

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