By Modou S. Joof
A Save the Children report “Surviving the First Day: State of the World’s Mothers 2013” released Tuesday has placed The Gambia, a tiny West African country, among the worst countries in the world to be a mother.
The May 7, 2013 report point out The Gambia and nine other countries’ poor performance in indicators like maternal health, under-five mortality, women’s education, and income and political status.
The country is ranked 170 out of 176 countries worldwide, a position that set The Gambia ahead of only six countries: Central African Republic, Niger, Mali, Sierra Leone, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo – ranked from 171 to 176 respectively.
Ivory Coast at 167th, Chad at 168th and Nigeria at 169th are ranked better than The Gambia, but still among the worst places to be a mother in the world
In “Surviving the First Day: State of the World’s Mothers 2013”, Save the Children assessed the well-being of mothers and children in 176 countries – more countries than in any previous year.
The Gambia and her peers placed in the bottom ten attained very poor scores for mothers’ and children’s health, and educational, economic and political status.
Based on a 2010 survey, the report said 1 in every 56 women in The Gambia has a lifetime risk of maternal death. In 2011, 810 children lost their lives on the very day they were born. In the same year, 2300 children died in their first month. Most of these children die of preventable causes.
“Conditions for mothers and their children are grim,” the report said of The Gambia and other countries labeled “the worst countries to be a mother”. In these countries, on average, 1 woman in 30 dies from pregnancy-related causes and 1 child in 7 dies before his or her fifth birthday.
Beyond mere numbers
“These statistics go far beyond mere numbers,” the charity Save the Children warns.
“The human despair, lost opportunities and impaired economic growth represented in these numbers demand mothers, families and communities everywhere be given the basic tools they need to break the cycle of poverty and improve the quality of life for themselves, their children, and for generations to come,” it said.
Save the Children said sub-Saharan Africa is by far the riskiest region to be born, as all the ten countries in the “worst group” to be a mother are in the sub-region.
Also, the 14 countries with the “highest first-day death rates” are all in sub-Saharan Africa. Hence, the report said “babies born in sub-Saharan Africa are more than 7 times as likely to die on the day they are born as babies in industrialised countries”.
An estimated 397,000 babies die each year in sub-Saharan Africa on the day they are born. The region accounts for 12 per cent of the world’s population, on the contrary, it accounts for 38 per cent of the world’s first-day deaths.
Can be prevented
To stop the mothers and children dying of preventable diseases, the international charity said the authorities in the sub-region should address the underlying causes of newborn mortality, especially gender inequality.
It strongly calls for investment in health workers especially those working on the front lines to reach the most vulnerable mothers and babies.
Save the Children suggests increased investment in low-cost, low-technology solutions which health workers can use to save lives during pregnancy, at birth and immediately after birth.
“Most newborn deaths could be prevented by ensuring access to lifesaving products and approaches, including treatment of infections in pregnant women; access to low-tech equipment that can help babies breathe, and basic education for mothers about the importance of proper hygiene, warmth and breastfeeding for newborns,” it said.