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Investing in mothers key to reducing disaster impact in Asia

Investing in mothers key to reducing impact of disasters in Asia – Save the Children

Maternal deaths and child mortality in the most challenging parts of the World can be dramatically cut when efforts are made to improve services for mothers and children, Save the Children reveals in new research.

Since 2000 Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal have each cut maternal death rates by around two thirds, while China has cut maternal mortality by almost half, according to the aid agency’s State of the World’s Mothers index.

The Mothers Index–which scores countries on mothers' and children's health, educational, economic and political status – also shows that some Western countries are falling behind other wealthy countries. In the US, the risk that a 15-year-old girl will die during her lifetime from a pregnancy-related cause has increased by over 50 per cent since 2000, from one in 3,700 to one in 2,400. American women face the same risk of maternal death as those in Iran or Romania.

Of the 178 countries surveyed this year, Finland is the best place to be a mother while Somalia, the worst.

New Zealand is ranked at number 16, ahead of Canada, Ireland and France, but behind Australia which sits at ninth , Italy at 11 and Portugal at 15.

Afghanistan, which has grappled with armed conflict for decades, was ranked the worst place in the world to be a mother just three years ago, but has since made important strides. By training midwives, improving immunisation coverage and raising girls’ education levels, it has markedly improved women’s and children’s health.

The progress in Afghanistan and Nepal distinguishes them from many other war-torn or fragile states, which consistently rank at the bottom. Disparities in access to health care are particularly stark in rural areas.

“The link between conflict-affected and fragile states and high rates of maternal and child mortality might seem obvious, but while the numbers of mothers and children dying of preventable causes in these places remain unacceptably high, several countries show that we can save mothers’ and children’s lives despite the effects of a humanitarian crisis", said Greg Duly, Regional Director for Southeast and East Asia.

This year the annual State of the World's Mothers report focuses on mothers in humanitarian crises – from Cyclone Phalin in India and Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, to mothers living in fragile or conflict-affected States like Afghanistan or those living in conflict-affected areas in countries like Pakistan and India.

This is particularly important for a region like Asia, the world’s most disaster-prone region, which registers the largest number of people affected, as well as the largest number of people killed, by disasters over the last decade.

“Worldwide, women and children are often much more likely than men to die in a disaster, whether man-made or natural", said Mr Duly. "And each year, thousands more mothers and children die in conflict-settings than fighters do in battle. We urgently need to increase access to healthcare in places where state capacity is weak and conflict and insecurity is widespread. Every child has the right to survive, no matter where they are born.”

Countries that have made the most progress on maternal and child survival in Asia are often highly vulnerable to climate-related disasters. The rate of progress on child and maternal mortality achieved by Bangladesh, Vietnam and Philippines could slow down if extreme weather events become more severe or frequent.

While large natural disasters like Typhoon Haiyan and the Indian Ocean Tsunami illustrate the importance of helping mothers when vital services are destroyed or disrupted, they also show that after the initial emergency has passed, existing institutions can be rebuilt and aid can get through quickly. Preparedness and disaster risk reduction are critical.

Click here to read the full report.


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