Mother’s Day is fast approaching, so it seems timely to take a look at what it’s like to be a mom in today’s world. Save the Children has done just that. According to a new report, the 14th annual State of the World’s Mothers by the international NGO, Europe makes a clean sweep at the top of the list (occupying the first 9 places), with Finland at the top.
But just after the long list of European states tapers off, Australia comes in at number 10, followed by Singapore in 15th spot, making them the best places to be a mother in the Asia-Pacific, and indeed anywhere in the world outside of Europe. Singapore is also the safest place to be born in Asia, sharing the world’s top spot with Sweden, Estonia, Cyprus, Iceland and Luxembourg, with only 0.5 deaths on the first day per 1,000 live births.
Australia and Singapore are followed in the region by New Zealand (no. 17 in the world), Japan (no. 31), South Korea (no. 32) and Malaysia (no. 70). The Philippines and Indonesia were tied for a surprisingly low 106th. The countries least conducive to motherhood in the Asia-Pacific are India (no. 142 in the world), Afghanistan (no. 145), Burma (no. 152) and Papua New Guinea (no. 158). The United States comes in at number 30, due to its relatively high infant mortality rates, while the Democratic Republic of the Congo is at the bottom of the global list. The full list of rankings can be seen here.
The rankings are determined by five factors that ultimately add up to an assessment of overall maternal wellbeing: maternal health, children’s wellbeing, educational status, economic status and political status. As these factors suggest, the health of children is intimately linked to the status of mothers. On this account, Asia is leading the world in the speed of its progress.
For instance, Asian nations are noted for “making the greatest strides to save newborn lives” – cutting their newborn mortality rates drastically since 1990. China, Laos, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Nepal are among the twelve countries that have made significant improvements in this regard. This is a regional trend. In East Asia and the Pacific, newborn deaths have declined 65 percent since 1990; in South Asia, 33 percent.
A sobering reality is that, despite strides, newborn deaths still occur on a massive scale in Asia. Indian, Pakistan, China, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Afghanistan rank in the world’s top ten in terms of sheer numbers of newborn deaths. Further, after Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia is considered the world’s second most dangerous region to be born.
One troubling trend in Asia is “gendercide”, in which baby girls are killed simply for being girls. In particular, this trend plagues India and China. In Asia, the numbers are undeniable. An estimated 160 million women and girls are missing. In China, this has resulted in a gender imbalance of 37 million more males than females. In India, there are 7 million more boys than girls under age 7.
The documentary film It’s a Girl takes an in-depth look at this issue, telling the stories of girls who have been abandoned and trafficked, as well as mothers who have suffered abuse, fought bravely for their children, and also those “who would kill for a son”. A trailer can be seen here.
For nations still struggling to improve conditions for mothers and their children – especially girls – taking a cue from Singapore is a good place to start.
“Singapore has proven that recommendations in this report works – Sufficient skilled health workers for antenatal care, delivery of babies and postnatal support can dramatically reduce child and maternal mortality,” Save the Children’s regional director in Singapore, Mike Novell, told Channel News Asia.
He added, “It can and should serve as a model for other countries still striving to prevent the deaths of millions of mothers and children who die needlessly each year.”