THAILAND ROSE eight spots on Save the Children's 2015 Mothers' Index, climbing to 72 out of 178 countries. However, it still lags behind regional nations like Singapore, Malaysia and China.
In its 15th edition, the index is part of the children’s aid agency’s annual State of the World’s Mothers report, showing who are succeeding – and who are failing – in saving and improving the lives of mothers and their children.
Overall, Finland was ranked the best place to be a mother for the second straight year and Somalia came in last.
In Thailand, maternal mortality has been cut by over one-third, child mortality has decreased by 40 per cent, the expected years of schooling increased by 2.5 years and gross national income per capita has risen 265 per cent over the past 15 years.
“Thailand has done well on the index, with significant cuts in maternal and child mortality, as well as improvements in education. This is a result of strong political will and willingness to invest in universal healthcare, amongst other essential services for children,” said Allison Zelkowitz, country director for Save the Children in Thailand.
This year’s State of the World’s Mothers report focuses on mothers in humanitarian crises, in order to better understand and respond to their needs. In addition to their own vulnerability to poverty, malnutrition, sexual violence, unplanned pregnancy and unassisted childbirth, mothers in humanitarian crises suffer wide ranging obstacles to keep their children healthy.
A related concern in Thailand is the extremely low breastfeeding rates, at just 15 per cent, despite the overwhelming benefits of the practice. Breastfeeding provides a complete form of nutrition, building children's immune systems and protecting them against diarrhoea, malnutrition and other illnesses common in the aftermath of disasters.
“Family-planning services should be prioritised in the aftermath of any disaster. Already, Thailand has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Southeast Asia, at 54 per 1,000 live births. It causes girls to seek illegal abortions, which are extremely risky for them. Teenage mothers are also twice as likely to die in childbirth as mothers in their twenties,” added Zelkowitz.
To protect mothers and children in the aftermath of disasters, Save the Children is calling upon states and civil society to:
l Ensure every mother and newborn living in crisis has access to high quality health care, including family planning services, and breastfeeding counselling.
l Build the resilience of health systems to minimise the damaging effects of crises on health.
l Develop national and local preparedness plans tailored to respond to the specific needs of mothers, children and babies in emergencies.
l Ensure adequate financing and coordination to timely respond to mothers and children’s needs in emergencies.