Save the Children Canada

Save the Children Canada
Canadian Association of Midwives

Canadian Association of Midwives

May 03, 2011 15:34 ET

More Midwives Could Save Over 1 Million Children & Improve the State of the World's Mothers

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - May 3, 2011) -

Editors Note: There is a document associated with this release.

One in three mothers – almost 48 million women worldwide – every year give birth without expert help. With no access to midwives or other health professionals women and they children often die alone.

This Mother's Day, what mothers have to celebrate varies dramatically depending on where they live, according to Save the Children Canada's Missing Midwives & the State of the World's Mothers report, which ranks 164 countries based on the quality of life of mothers. This year the report also provides an in depth analysis on one key aspect that determines that ranking – a woman's access to skilled attendance when giving birth.

This year, Afghanistan ranks worst and Norway best on Save the Children's Index of best to worst countries to be a mother. Some progress is being made even in Afghanistan where the number of midwives — although still pitifully low — has tripled within the past three years, thanks, in part, to midwifery colleges run by aid agencies, including Save the Children. Still, around the world, far too many women, give birth with only a traditional healer whose only tools are a dirty blade to cut the umbilical cord and herbs to combat infection.

Save the Children along with advocacy partners like the Canadian Association of Midwives, have launched campaigns to address the estimated global shortage of 4.3 million health workers including doctors, nurses, midwives and community health workers. A minimum of 350,000 midwives are needed to save not only thousands of mothers, but 1.3 million newborn babies, who every year die from easily preventable causes.

"This week when we celebrate our mothers and spend time with family let's remember that women and newborns around the world are dying because a midwife is "missing" said Patricia Erb, Interim President and Chief Executive Officer of Save the Children. "No mother should face giving birth alone. The care a midwife provides during those frightening moments of a woman's life is not only reassuring; it can make the difference between life and death for the new infant and the mother."

While most women in Canada have access to skilled birth attendance, women who live in rural and isolated communities are underserviced. First Nations and Inuit women, in particular, suffer from a lack of access in comparison to women you live in southern Canada.

Canada's 20th place ranking on the State of the World's Mothers Index is in part due to a slight increase in maternal mortality rates reported in the 2010 State of the World's Mothers Report. While part of Canada's higher maternal mortality rate can be attributed to changes in reporting procedures, a study on stillbirths published by the Lancet and Save the Children found that the stillbirth rate for most Canadian women in 2009 was 3.3 per 1000 births, but it was three times that rate in Inuit communities.

"The federal government must implement regulatory, educational and policy changes to bring birth back to rural and remote areas of the country, particularly to Aboriginal communities" said Anne Wilson, President of the Canadian Association of Midwives. "The National Aboriginal Council of Midwives is working tirelessly to bring maternity care services and midwifery back to their communities and we [CAM], will continue to support their efforts."

No child is born to die – and yet thousands die needlessly every day. Save the Children's global campaign, EVERY ONE, is determined to end this injustice and save children's lives. Join us at

The Mothers' Index and Country Rankings

The twelfth annual Mothers' Index helps document conditions for mothers and children in 164 countries – 43 developed nations and 121 in the developing world – and shows where mothers fare best and where they face the greatest hardships. All countries for which sufficient data are available are included in the Index.

Why should Save the Children be so concerned with mothers? Because more than 75 years of field experience have taught us that the quality of children's lives depends on the health, security and well-being of their mothers. In short, providing mothers with access to education, economic opportunities and maternal and child health care, gives mothers and their children the best chance to survive and thrive.

The Index relies on information published by governments, research institutions and international agencies. The Complete Mothers' Index, based on a composite of separate indices for women's and children's well-being, appears in the fold-out table in this appendix. A full description of the research methodology and individual indicators appears after the fold-out.

TOP 10 best places
to be a mother
BOTTOM 10 worst places
to be a mother
1 Norway155 Central African Republic
2 Australia156 Sudan
3 Iceland157 Mali
4 Sweden158 Eritrea
5 Denmark159 DR Congo
6 New Zealand160 Chad
7 Finland161 Yemen
8 Belgium162 Guinea-Bissau
9 Netherlands163 Niger
10 France164 Afghanistan


Canada ranked 20th this year based on several factors:

  • One of the key indicators used to calculate well-being for mothers is lifetime risk of maternal mortality. Canada's rate for maternal mortality is 1 in 5,600. A woman in Canada is almost 3 times as likely as a woman in Italy or Ireland to eventually die from pregnancy-related causes and her lifetime risk of maternal death is roughly 6-fold that of a woman in Greece.

  • While other developed countries saw a decrease in under-five mortality, Canada stayed constant at 6 deaths per 1000 live births. Canada does not do as well as many other developed countries with regard to under-5 mortality. Hungary and the Netherlands, both registered gains in child survival, with rates of under-5 mortality falling from 7 to 6 and 5 to 4 (per 1,000 live births), respectively. Twenty-three countries performed better than Canada on this indicator. At this rate, a child in Canada is more than twice as likely as a child in France, Greece, Iceland, Japan, Luxembourg, Norway, Slovenia, or Sweden to die before reaching age 5.

  • Approximately 70 percent of children in Canada are enrolled in preschool in line with countries like Cyprus and Greece and with lower preschool enrollment than Malta, Portugal, Japan and New Zealand

  • Canada along with Serbia, Slovakia, and Greece has some of the least generous maternity leave policies – both in terms of percentage of wages paid (approximately 55%) – of wealthy nations.

  • Canada is also lagging behind with regard to the political status of women. Canadian women claim a higher percentage of seats in the Senate than the House of Commons (34% compared to 22%); in fact many developing countries including Mozambique, Rwanda and Afghanistan have higher levels of female political representation in their governments.

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