It’s tough to be a mother in Africa

2014-05-11 15:00

Motherhood, it has been suggested, is the hardest job in the world?–?and that’s particularly true for women trying to raise their children on the African continent.

Three north African countries ranked ahead of South Africa in Save the Children’s annual State of the World’s Mothers report released this week. Libya was ranked 58th, Tunisia 59th, Algeria 71st and South Africa 75th out of 178 countries studied by Save the Children.

South African mothers have an easier time than their counterparts in two Brics nations?–?Brazil came in at 76 and India was way down the list at 137. This is the 15th edition of the report, which considers mothers’ circumstances based on their countries’ maternal and children’s health, education, political and economic data.

Finland, Norway, Sweden, Iceland and the Netherlands came out tops. When Finland topped the list last year, The Atlantic magazine said that the Scandinavian country’s strength lay in its “enlightened policies towards gender”.

Finland allows four months of paid maternity leave, and the mother and father can also share an additional six-month “parental leave” period with pay.

The Atlantic reported: “After that, kids can either continue staying home with their mothers until they reach school age, or parents can send them to a publicly subsidised childcare centre where the providers are all extensively trained.”

One of the countries that has dropped down the scale is the US?–?from the top 10 in 2000 to 31st.

Researchers said this was partly because of natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy, and partly because of increasingly high-risk pregnancies among obese women who are more likely to suffer complications like hypertension.

Somalia ranked last, with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) one position up. Researchers found that it was statistically more dangerous to be a woman or a child in the DRC than to be an armed fighter.

Save the Children SA’s chief executive, Gugulethu Ndebele, said South Africa’s vastly improved HIV/Aids programmes had helped women and children, and had brought down child mortality in the past 15 years.

“This is a big achievement. However, given South Africa’s poverty and inequality, it is still a very tough place to be a mother for many women,” she said.

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