The Mix

The state of the world's mothers

A mother in Ethiopia is 37 times more likely to see her child die in the first year of life than a mother in Sweden.
Mother's day is coming up, but I'm having a hard time feeling celebratory. Yesterday, I read the State of the World's Mothers Reportz, which came and went in a half-second from the mainstream media's news pages. After reading it, the state of the U.S.'s "Mommy Wars" couldn't sound more frivolous.

There is probably no more concrete way to exemplify how globalization has failed women and children then to look a this report. 24 million infants each year die the day they are born because of a lack of basic needs. In Somalia, 1 in 7 children wll die before his or her first birthday. The report is an indictment of the continued existence of virulent racism, going hand in hand with poverty. The top ten countries on the "Mothers' Index," which rates 10 factors for well-being, are also the blondest, with the top three being Swedent, Denmark, and Finland. The United States is ranked number ten, with the highest infant mortality rate of any of the industrialized nations, save Latvia.

The bottom ten countries are all, witout exception, in Africa, with Niger ratng the worst. Compared to a mother in the top 10 countries, a mother in the bottom 10 countries is 28 times more likely to see her child die in the first year of life and over 750 times more likely to die herself in pregnancy or childbirth.

Even within the United States, the infant mortality rate of African-Americans is nearly double that of the country as a whole.

What are some of the factors contributing to the disparities? Consider some of these comparisons from the report:

*Sweden has a female literacy rate over 95%. In contrast, only 34 percent of Ethiopian women are literate. And a mother in Ethiopia is 37 times more likely to see her child die in the first year of life than a mother in Sweden.

*In the bottom 10 countries, nearly 1 out of 3 children is not enrolled in school, and only 1 out of 4 adult women is literate. In the top 10 countries, virtually all children go to school and all women are literate.

*Skilled health personnel attend fewer than 15 percent of births in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Nepal.

*Fewer than 5 percent of women use modern contraception in Chad, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Niger, Rwanda and Sierra Leone.

If all this leaves you feeling unsure of what to do about it, you're not alone. But it seems the first step could be to give a little perspective this Mother's Day and, instead of flowers, consider a gift that promotes global justice.
Rachel Neumann is Rights & Liberties Editor at AlterNet.
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