Education & Family

UK fails to make top 20 in mother's index

mother and daughter
Image caption The index assesses maternal health, under-five mortality, levels of education, income and political status

The UK has failed to rank among the top 20 places to be a mother, falling behind other European countries such as Germany and France.

In a list of 176 countries, compiled by the charity Save the Children, the UK is ranked at number 23.

Finland, Sweden and Norway take the top three slots respectively in the charity's Mother's Index.

Save the Children found the Democratic Republic of the Congo to be the world's toughest place to be a mother.

In the charity's report - The State of the World's Mothers - Ireland is ranked at number 20, the US 30, Germany nine, and France 16.

Mortality and education

The Mother's Index uses indicators of maternal health and under-five mortality, as well as women's education, income and political status.

Ranked at number 23, the UK had fewer women in Parliament and higher maternal and infant mortality rates than much of Europe, Save the Children reported.

Women in the UK are at a higher risk of dying during pregnancy or childbirth than those in Slovakia, Montenegro and Lithuania, according to the statistics.

The charity suggests a reason for this is the age at which women in the UK are having babies.

With high teenage pregnancy and IVF pregnancy rates, the UK has a higher proportion of young and old mothers than much of Europe.

Save the Children says another reason is poverty and inequality, as women with unemployed partners are six times more likely to die as a result of complications during pregnancy or childbirth.

First-day deaths

The charity's report also charts the numbers of babies dying within 24 hours of being born.

It found the US had "by far the highest rate of first-day deaths among industrialised nations" - more than twice the amount (11,300) of the entire EU (5,800).

However, the risk of death for both mothers and babies remains the highest in developing nations.

A baby in the developing world is seven times as likely to die on its first day as those born in industrialised nations, the charity found.

A newborn in Somalia, the most risky country in which to be born, is 40 times more likely to die on its first day than a child born in Luxembourg, the safest.

Overall, Save the Children found one million babies died each year on the day they enter the world - or two every minute - making the first day by far the riskiest day of a person's life in almost every country in the world.

Justin Forsyth, chief executive of Save the Children, said: "Overall the world has made unprecedented progress in reducing child and maternal deaths.

"But within this progress, there are two big challenges - newborns and malnutrition. We can end child and maternal mortality in our generation - by using tried and tested interventions to stop mothers and babies being lost from what should be simple preventable causes.

"The G8 in June, chaired by the Prime Minister [David Cameron], has a critical opportunity to tackle hunger which accounts for a third of child deaths. He must make sure we seize this opportunity."

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