Monday, May 9, 2011

How Do Mothers Fare Around The World?

PRT, ADT women help celebrate Women's Day in Kunar [Image 3 of 3]

*** original post found here at Photo of International Women's Day celebration in Afghanistan of Women from the Kunar Provincial Reconstruction Team and Iowa National Guard’s 734th Agribusiness Development Team, 8 March, photo by DVIDSHUB @ flickr

From Denny:  The recent Mother's Day celebration does make us wonder how other women fare in the rest of the world. The organization, "Save The Children," conducted a study and ranked the best - and the worst places - in the world to be a mother.

They ranked child and maternal mortality, health care, and education. The disparities were glaring:

Women who die from pregnancy-related causes:

Afghanistan: 1 in 11 women die
Norway: only 1 in 7,600 die

The bottom worst countries ranked:

Children that die before the age of five: 1 out of every 6 children
Women who die of pregnancy-related causes: 1 out of 30 women die
A skilled attendant at birth: fewer than 50 percent
Children who suffer from malnutrition: 1 out of 3 children

How well did America fare in the study? Not that well. We were ranked at 31 out of the 43 developed countries. Considering the state of our expensive health care system and wages driven down to the point people have dropped their health care insurance it's no surprise.

Any good news after these depressing statistics? Yes. Over the past 20 years child deaths have decreased worldwide from a high of 12 million down to now eight million. That's progress.

It's American aid that has helped drive down these numbers by improving the situation for the mothers and children in developing countries.

From Mary Beth Powers, chief of Save the Children's Child Survival Campaign: "The work that we’re doing globally, funded by the US government, is making a difference." Powers says she is worried that America's budget concerns will threaten some of these investments in developing countries and gains in child survival.

Powers says tools are already present to make a difference:

Training front-line health care workers
Training these workers to recognize and treat common childhood diseases
Investing in midwifery schools in developing countries

From Powers: "The hopeful piece of this is that we do know what to do. We’re not racing for a cure, we have the cures in hand."

Last week our State Department announced a new initiative for the world's mothers. It's called the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA). The US Agency for International Development (USAID) has partnered with Johnson & Johnson.

This alliance will focus first on Bangladesh, India, and South Africa. The future plans will involve exploring ways to harness increasing mobile-phone networks and other technology as a means to get more resources and information into the hands of expectant and new mothers.

From Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: "Women in developing countries, some of the women most at risk for pregnancy-related problems, will be able to use their cell phones to get health information via text messages or voice mails, and the information can even be customized for the stage of pregnancy or the age of their children."

Sec. Clinton discussed other improvements in maternal and child health involving the US and UNICEF. The efforts have dramatically contributed to a 30 percent decline in maternal deaths in as many as 19 countries.

"This is one example of where we can really trace US government efforts that have made a difference in the lives of women, babies, and children."

The worst areas of the world for women and children is in sub-Saharan Africa and other developing countries. Yet America is not without problems. We have dropped by three rankings from last year's report. America is behind small poor countries like Croatia, Estonia and Latvia.

What is America's poorest showing in the lifetime risk of maternal mortality? We have the highest maternal mortality of all the industrialized nations at 1 in 2,100. Right here in America a woman is seven times more likely to die of pregnancy-related causes than a woman from Ireland. We are 15 times more likely to die from the same than a woman from Greece. That's outrageous considering our expensive and supposedly great technologically advanced health care system.

How does America fare in children under the age of five mortality rate? Again, it's outrageous where we are ranked at eight out of 1,000 births. We are worse than 40 other countries. Compared to Norway how do we fare? Norway's rate is only three out of 1,000 births.

Women in America get the short end of the stick, performing poorly, in other areas as well compared to other developed countries: preschool enrollment and maternal-leave policy.

From Powers: "We aren’t making the investments that would improve childhood-mortality rates in this country. Our government is considering cutting funding for preschool, and for underserved populations. That’s where these pockets of deaths to mothers and children are happening, in impoverished communities."

Where a woman lives in the world could very well determine her life expectancy and whether she has a good chance of surviving child birth. The discrepancies are hideous indeed.

Norway is at the top of the rankings. There a typical woman can live up to 83 years. She can acquire 18 years of formal education. Only one in 175 women will experience the loss of a child before they turn five years old. Almost every woman can expect a skilled attendant when she is giving birth, helping to ensure her survival.

Sadly, it's Afghanistan that ranks at the bottom of the Save The Children report. An Afghani woman can only expect to experience less than a mere five years of education. The typical Afghani woman is middle-aged at age 25 because she can expect to die before she turns age 45. Only 14 percent have skilled attendants at birth.

And the high rate of children who die before they turn five years old? In Afghanistan you can expect that one out of every five children to die. That means that practically every mother can expect the loss of a child to happen to them.

From Powers: "In Afghanistan, it is still more risky to give birth than ... fighting in Afghanistan."

Write Congress and your President and demand they help the women and children of the world.  Here's the White House contact site.  Here's the House of Representatives site.  Here's the United States Senate site. 

Without our continued help those decreasing mortality figures - which we have worked so hard to create - will begin to rise. How can we call ourselves a compassionate nation of moral and religious values if we abandon the vulnerable and helpless?

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