American Mothers More Likely To Die Than Peers In Developed Countries - Save the Children

Monday 4 May 2015

The United States continues its descent in the global rankings of best and worst places for mothers, slipping two places to 33rd out of 179 surveyed countries, reveals Save the Children’s 16th annual State of the World’s Mothers report.

Norway rose to the top of the list, closely followed by other Nordic countries, while Somalia remained last for the second year running, with all but two of the 11 bottom-ranked countries in the world in West and Central Africa.

‘We urgently need to close the gap in life chances for mothers and children so that – no matter where they live - everyone has a fair chance to survive and fulfil their potential,’ says Jasmine Whitbread, CEO of Save the Children International.

The 2015 report found that women in the United States face a shocking one in 1,800 lifetime risk of maternal death - the worst performance of any developed country in the world.

This means that an American woman is, on average, more than 10 times as likely to die in pregnancy and childbirth as a Polish, Austrian, or Belarusian woman; and an American child under-five is just as likely to die as a child in Serbia or Slovakia.

This year’s report also evaluates the devastating health disparities between the rich and poor living in some of our major cities around the world, finding that while home to the wealthiest and healthiest people in a country, they are also home to some of the poorest and most marginalised families on earth.

‘For the first time in history, more than half of the world’s population lives in urban areas. People are often drawn to cities by the prospect of a better life for their children, but many cities around the world are unable to keep up with breakneck growth, leaving hundreds of millions of mothers and children in cities without access to essential health services and the clean water they need to survive and stay healthy’ says Ms Whitbread.

‘If the world’s going to complete the task of ending preventable child and maternal deaths, we have to find better ways of getting health care to urban populations, regardless of income’.

‘For babies born in many of the world’s fast-growing cities, it’s survival of the richest,’ she adds.

The 10 countries showing the greatest survival divide between wealthy and poor urban children are: Rwanda, Cambodia, Kenya, Vietnam, Peru, India, Madagascar, Ghana, Bangladesh and Nigeria.

Survival gaps, in relative terms, have roughly doubled in the cities of Kenya, Rwanda, and Malawi despite these countries’ overall success in saving more children’s lives.

The gap between the health of the richest and poorest is just as stark in big cities in some of the wealthiest nations, according to the report.

In a ranking of child survival in 25 capital cities in the world’s wealthiest countries, Washington, D.C. came last, followed closely by Vienna (Austria), Bern (Switzerland), Warsaw (Poland) and Athens (Greece).

Leading the list of capitals where babies are most likely to survive are Prague (Czech Republic), Stockholm (Sweden), Oslo (Norway) Tokyo (Japan), and Lisbon (Portugal).

The report has also uncovered some good news, identifying a number of cities that are making significant survival gains city-wide for even the poorest mothers and children, including Kampala (Uganda), Addis Ababa (Ethiopia); Cairo (Egypt); Guatemala City (Guatemala); Manila (Philippines); and Phnom Penh (Cambodia).

These cities are working to strengthen health systems, increase maternal and pediatric health awareness, and make healthcare more accessible and affordable to the poorest urban families.

‘The survival of millions of children in cities should not be a privilege for the rich but guaranteed for all,’ says Ms Whitbread.

‘We are calling on municipal and national leaders to put the health needs of mothers and children at the top of their agendas, and make universal quality health care a reality.’

Notes to editors

  • The full ‘State of the World’s Mothers : The Urban Disadvantage’> report is available here.
  • In much of the world, more children than ever before are living to see their fifth birthday. Today, around 17,000 fewer children die every day compared to 25 years ago (1990), and the global under-5 mortality rate has been cut nearly in half, from 90 to 46 deaths per 1,000 live births.
  • Rankings reflect a composite score derived from five different indicators related to maternal well-being - maternal health; children's well-being; educational status; economic status; and political status.

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