11th May, 2012
Niger has replaced Afghanistan as the worst place in the world to be a mother, according to Save the Children's annual Mothers' Index.
THE WORST PLACES TO BE A MOTHER:
Democratic Republic of Congo
Source: Mothers' Index, Save the Children
The drought-ravaged West African nation of Niger, where the lives of a million children are currently threatened by the worsening hunger situation, is ranked last out of the 165 countries for which data is provided while Afghanistan has moved up one to 164th place.
A typical girl in Niger only receives four years of education and only lives to be 56-years-old. One in seven children die before their fifth birthday meaning that every mother in Niger is likely to suffer the loss of a child.
On the positive side, the situation for mothers in Afghanistan - which has been at the bottom of the list for the last two years - has been improving. While Save the Children still rank it close to the bottom of the table in their Mothers' Index, research shows that while in 2006, one of five children died before reaching their fifth birthday, this number had dropped to one in 10 by 2010.
The bottom 10 countries include eight from sub-Saharan Africa - everywhere from Chad and Mali to Eritrea and South Sudan - and seven of them are currently in the midst of a food crisis.
The top 10 countries, meanwhile, are all in the Western world. Norway tops the list followed by Iceland and Sweden. Australia is ranked 7th, three below New Zealand, the UK equal 10th with the Netherlands and the US, 25th.
Taking a broader view, the 13th annual index - contained within the annual State of the World's Mothers Report - shows that on average one in 30 women will die from pregnancy-related causes (more than half of all births are still not attended by skilled health personnel), that in in seven children dies before their fifth birthday, and that nearly one third of all children suffer from malnutrition.
In addition, females receive an average of six years of formal education, women earn less than 40 per cent of what men do and eight out of 10 women are likely to suffer the loss of a child in their lifetime.
"Statistics are far more than numbers," says the report. "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."
Save the Children has called for global action to tackle the cycle of maternal and child nutrition when G8 leaders gather in the US later this month.
"The 2012 State of the World's Mothers report shows clearly that this crisis of chronic malnutrition has devastating effects on both mothers and their children," said Carolyn Miles, president and CEO of Save the Children. "We urgently need global leadership on the malnutrition issue, so that policies and programs are put in place to ensure the health and survival of mothers and their babies."
Research conducted for the report has found that simply supporting mothers to breastfeed could save a million child lives a year.
"Our research shows that a mother's breast milk - one single nutrition intervention - can save a million children's lives each year," said Miles. "All mothers should have the support they need to choose to breastfeed if they want to. Breastfeeding is good for babies no matter where they live, but in developing countries, especially those without access to clean water, breastfeeding can be a matter of life or death."
Save the Children are running a Newborn and Child Survival campaign. To sign a petition, visit www.savethechildren.org/world-mothers.