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BBC News, Published May 13 2012

Hot topic: Charity ranks best, worst places to be a mother

The charity Save the Children has ranked the best and worst places to be a mother.

The ranking comes in the charity’s annual index which compares conditions for mothers in 165 countries.

It considers a number of factors including health, education, economic status and nutrition.

Coming in with the worst ranking is Niger, where nearly one third of children are malnourished and one in seven dies before the age of five

Niger is severely affected by a regional food crisis. It replaces Afghanistan at the bottom of the Save the Children index.

After two years at the bottom of the list, Afghanistan has moved up a notch. This is credited to greater investment in front-line health workers.

Rounding out the five worst places are Yemen, Guinea-Bissau and Mali.

Scandinavian nations dominate the index’s best places. Norway is ranked the best place, followed by Iceland, Sweden, New Zealand and Denmark.

The charity describes how chronic malnutrition leads mothers, who themselves have been stunted in childhood, to go on to have underweight and vulnerable babies.

It warns that if a mother is “impoverished, overworked, poorly educated and in poor health, she may not be able to feed the baby adequately, with largely irreversible effects.”

Director of policy Brendan Cox said: “We urgently need global leadership on malnutrition that results in key nutrition projects being rolled out for mothers and babies to ensure health and survival.”

Save the Children believes that measures focusing on the first 1,000 days of a child’s life, starting from pregnancy, could help to break the vicious cycle.