Each year, the NGO Save the Children publishes their annual “State of the World’s Mothers Report.” This report ranks countries on their support for motherhood, in essence, offering a sort of “where the best places to be a mother are” list. The rankings are derived from a composite score, evaluating countries in the five categories of: maternal health, children’s well-being, educational status, economic status, and political status. You may access the full report here.
Sadly, the most inhospitable regions for mothers and children are countries plagued by armed conflict and deep poverty. In the Democratic Republic of Congo where six million lives have been claimed to the ongoing civil war, the findings from the report note that it is safer to be in combat than to be a mother or child. It is not only the senseless acts of violence that have contributed to this shocking death toll, but also the incidence of malnutrition and disease. Political displacement in conflict regions, risk of physical/sexual violence, poverty, and natural disaster all limit women’s access to maternal care.
A worthy topic to distribute to the public, this year’s report caught the eye of ABC and Jezebel. Both news sources commented on the United States’ notable drop in the rankings, from number 6 in the world in 2006 to number 31 in 2014. As the world’s wealthiest country, how is it that we have come to fall short of making the top thirty? The report explains that while we are doing well in terms of economic and educational status (of which we are ranked 8th and 14th in the world, respectively), we are lagging in other aspects. When it comes to maternal health, the US ranks 46th in the world. This figure reflects the reality that American women face a 1 in 2400 risk of maternal death, and American children under 5 face a mortality rate of 7.1 per every 1000 live births, which is roughly the same in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Qatar, and Uruguay. For children’s well-being we occupy 40th place. Most disappointingly, when it comes to political status, we are at a dismal 96th place.
In light of recent changes to our healthcare system, we would expect our maternal health status to read differently. The Save the Children report points to devastating natural disasters that have hindered victims’ receipt of comprehensive healthcare. Still recent in our nation’s collective history, Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy had disproportionately aversive effects on access to care among pregnant/parent women and children. Though not mentioned in the article, another threat to women’s maternal health could possibly be the rise in the number of cases of severe pre-eclampsia, which pose risks to the health of mothers and fetuses.
Though the contributing factors are debatable, the numbers show that there is work to be done globally to improve women and children’s health worldwide. The Millenium Development Goals put out by the UN established markers that countries should strive to meet in these areas, but maintenance and support from governing bodies are needed to ensure that mothers have the ability to provide basic care for their children – around the world.