LONDON (TrustLaw) - Niger is the worst place in the world to be a mother and Norway is the best, according to Save the Children, which ranked 165 countries based on women's education, health and nutrition prospects and their economic status.
Niger – a poor, semi-arid country in West Africa – which is facing a deepening hunger crisis that threatens the lives of 1 million children, replaced Afghanistan in the bottom spot in the charity's annual "State of the World's Mothers" index.
Outlining the striking contrast between the top and bottom-ranked countries, Save the Children said skilled health workers are present at virtually every birth in Norway, while only one in three births are attended in Niger.
In Norway, a typical girl could expect to receive 18 years of formal education and live to be over 83, while in Niger, girls receive on average only four years of education and live only to 56.
In Norway, 82 percent of women use some modern method of contraception, and only one mother in 175 is likely to lose a child before his or her fifth birthday.
However, only 5 percent of women in Niger are using modern birth control and one child in 7 dies before his or her fifth birthday. The odds suggest every mother in Niger is likely to lose one child in their lifetimes.
Of the 10 countries at the bottom of Save the Children's index, eight are in sub-Saharan Africa: Niger, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Eritrea, Chad, Sudan, South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo. The others are Afghanistan and Yemen.
Four of the bottom 10 countries have witnessed an increase in stunting over the past 20 years, the aid agency said.
It also detailed a vicious cycle in which mothers, who may have been stunted in childhood, go on to give birth to underweight babies, often struggling to feed them enough nutritious food - with largely irreversible effects.
The report was issued ahead of a May 18-19 meeting of leaders from the G8 group of industrialised nations, where food security will be discussed.
"The 2012 State of the World's Mothers shows clearly that this crisis of chronic malnutrition has devastating effects on both mothers and their children," said Jasmine Whitbread, CEO of Save the Children International, in a statement.
"We urgently need global leadership on malnutrition that results in key nutrition projects being rolled out for mothers and babies to ensure their health and survival."