State of the World’s Mothers Report — 2015

The annual Save The Children’s State of the World’s Mothers report is out.
This year, the report focuses on mothers in urban settings, or, as the report states, “the hidden and often neglected plight of the urban poor.” As expected, dire statistics reflect the experience of mothers who live in slums, where, as the report describes “overcrowding and poor sanitation exist alongside skyscrapers and shopping malls. Lifesaving health care may be only a stone’s throw away, but the poorest mothers and children often cannot get the care they need.”

In addition to presenting the most extensive and current analysis of health disparities that exist between rich and poor in cities all over the world, the report also includes its annual Mothers’ Index, which ranks the best and worst places on earth (out of 179 countries) to be a mother. This index is based on the latest data on women’s and children’s health, educational attainment, economic well-being and female political participation. It looks at all these factors to develop a profile of what life is like for mothers.

Where are the best places on earth to be a mom? The Mothers’ Index lists Norway, Finland and Iceland as the top three because of their high scores for maternal and child health and educational, economic and political status for women.

Where’s the worst? Somalia — where conditions for mothers and children are grim. In Somalia, 1 in 30 women dies from pregnancy and childbirth-related conditions and 1 in 8 children dies before reaching age five.

How did the U.S. fare? We rank 33rd when all index factors — maternal health, child health economic status, level of education and female representation in government are considered and 61st in the world in terms of maternal health on its own. That means the U.S. scored even lower than last year.

Which US city is considered “the worst?” Washington DC. Our Nation’s capital had the highest infant mortality rate (7.9 deaths per 1000 live births) of the 25 capital cities studied. We know that infant mortality rates closely correlate with maternal mortality and morbidity rates. When Every Mother Counts met in 2013 with Ruth Watson Lubic, the nurse, anthropologist, and midwife who founded the Developing Families Center in Washington, her accounts of how women experience traditional healthcare corroborated much of what this report illustrates — that women are coming to deliver without the benefit of adequate prenatal care, education or preparation for childbirth and with cultural and economic conditions that put women at risk.

Much of the report focuses on the developing world where one-third of urban residents live in slums. Currently, that represents the living conditions of about 860 million people and that number is anticipated to grow to over 1 billion by 2020. While they’ve included detailed and intimate portraits of what life is like for women and children living in slums, we found it particularly inspiring that the report also includes descriptions of what’s working in some cities that can be replicated in others. For example, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia has made some of the greatest child survival gains of any city since 2000. Mothers and children are getting better access to healthcare in part because the city has invested in better infrastructure including roads and service facilities. In the Philippines, a nationwide program is improving health conditions for mothers and children by providing conditional cash grants to poor families with pregnant women or children under 14 to help improve their health, nutrition and education. Enrolled families must comply with conditions that include prenatal visits and currently 4 million households across 143 cities are enrolled.

We recommend downloading the entire report to better understand the disparities that exist in cities all over the world and the solutions that are improving conditions for mothers in many parts of the world. The bottom line is this: No matter what city you live in — the richest citizens have the best access to healthcare and the poorest will have the worst. But this can change when we focus on what is possible — solutions that provide equity for all mothers and children.

*Photo: Venetia Dearden

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