The worst place to give birth

A mother plays with her baby in Kenya. Photo by: Gates Foundation / CC BY-NC-ND

Mother’s Day is just around the corner, but in many parts of the world, a number of them don’t live long enough to celebrate the occasion.

A woman’s risk of dying from pregnancy or childbirth was among the five indicators Save the Children used in this year’s Mother’s Index. Every year, the organization releases a ranking of the best and worst places for mothers.

Finland topped the list in 2013, but the Scandinavian country was not the best performer though on maternal health, a distinction that went to Greece. The latter has the lowest risk of mothers dying from maternal causes – 1 in every 25,500, according to the report.

Unfortunately, the figures are not the same for many countries across Africa.

Chad performs the worst among the 176 countries included: one in 15 mothers there risk dying in pregnancy or childbirth. This could be attributed to the high number of young girls being married by the age of 18 (almost 50 percent of all young women). With bodies not fully developed enough for motherhood, a lot of them risk dying from birth or malnutrition.

Next to Chad is Somalia, which has the highest rate of women (74 percent) that don’t receive proper care during pregnancy. With only two skilled health workers available for every 10,000 people in the country, it is no surprise then that one in 16 mothers there runs the risk of dying in pregnancy or childbirth. Somalia also holds the record of the place with the highest risk of first-day, newborn deaths – 18 per 1,000 live births.

Rounding up the bottom 10 under this indicator are Niger, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea-Bissau, Central African Republic, Mali, Nigeria and Guinea.

The report recommends investing in health workers, including midwives and birth attendants, and providing them training and the necessary tools to help them respond better in preventing complications arising from pregnancy or childbirth. Strengthening health systems is also key to the solution.

Developing countries must also work on their own road maps “to identify and implement solutions that work best within their existing health systems to end preventable maternal and newborn deaths.”

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.