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The Global Motherhood Report Card, Revisited

Save_the_Children,_Westport,_CT,_USA_2012

A few days ago, I received an urgent email from Senator Gillibrand. Okay, maybe it wasn’t actually from the personal email of Kirsten Gillibrand and maybe it wasn’t any more urgent than her other emails about legislation, newsworthy topics, or appeals for support to her PAC. But, nevertheless, this subject line came across my inbox from her Gillibrand for Senate people:

“This made my jaw drop.”

I opened the email to find out what could be making Senator Gillibrand’s jaw drop. It turns out that it was a statistic taken from the NGO Save the Children’s annual report on the status of motherhood, “State of the World’s Mother Report 2015”, a subject that I had posted on a few months back. The report uses a number of indicators to determine the best/worst places in the world to be a mother. As it was when I last posted on the matter, city slums are the worst geographic locations to mother children in the world. Poor sanitation, malnutrition, disease, and overcrowding are contributing factors to the high incidence of maternal and child deaths in impoverished urban areas. Something worth mentioning has changed since my last post on the report, however: in 2014, the US was ranked just 31st in a list of the best and worst countries to be a mother in, down from 6 in 2006. Now, in 2015, we are even lower, having dropped to number 33. This is what has Senator Gillibrand’s jaw dropping.

The Washington Post took the data from the report and visually mapped it out, available here, showing the best and worst places to be a mother around the globe. At number 33, we’re still among the better countries, but it’s certainly not anything to brag about. Perhaps the reason The Washington Post has taken notice of this report is because it points out that among capital cities in richer countries, Washington, DC has the highest infant mortality rate. The infant mortality rate in this city is an average of 7.9 babies for every 1,000 live births. The averages in cities like Oslo or Sweden (ranked 1st and 5th, respectively, in the report) are around 2.0 babies per every 1,000 births. The report attributes this to the huge gap between rich and poor in DC. Life expectancy overall differs greatly between the city’s richest and poorest populations.

The report uses cities like Phnom Penh in Cambodia as case studies for how they have drastically cut down their infant mortality rates. According to Save the Children, promoting skilled birth attendance, incentivizing training for midwives, and more widespread communication pathways to spread public health messages have contributed to the decrease in infant mortality rates. However, applying this model won’t offer the same solutions to the US, so how can we better support mothers in our nation? Cue Kirsten Gillibrand.

Following her email’s line about jaws dropping was a plea to support a number of female candidates currently running for office, with the hope that electing female representatives will bring about better conditions for mothers in our country. The five indicators used by the State of the World’s Mother report to determine ranking are maternal health, children’s well-being, educational status, economic status, and political status. As part of the political status factor is measured by women’s participation in politics, Senator Gillibrand sees a unique opportunity in turning our less than sterling rank around. She believes (as do I) that the more women we elect to office, the more likely we will see laws codified that support mothers and close the poverty gap in our country – things like higher minimum wage, paid medical leave for mothers, better reproductive care, and expanded access to affordable child care and universal pre-K.

But don’t just trust Save the Children, Senator Gillibrand, or me. As with anything, find out more for yourself. Read the full report here: http://www.savethechildren.org/atf/cf/%7B9def2ebe-10ae-432c-9bd0-df91d2eba74a%7D/SOWM_2015.PDF Check out what politicians are saying about maternal health and women’s rights. Follow the status of the Millennium Development Goals put out by the UN: http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/ And be sure to tell us what you think!

Written by: Jenny Nigro, MoM Online Intern

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The Global Motherhood Report Card

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.