State of the World's Mothers 2014: Australia in Top 10 Best Countries for Mothers, New Zealand in 16th Place

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New Zealand has climbed one place higher in the annual State of the World's Mothers report by London-based aid agency, Save the Children. Out of 178 countries, New Zealand has ranked 16th from 17th place in 2013.

Since 2000, Save the Children has been releasing an annual report on the best and worst countries for mothers. New Zealand was included in the top 10 best countries for moms six times but not since 2012, according to reports.

Save the Children said New Zealand continues to be one of the nations with the lowest risk of maternal death. However, the country's lifetime risk of maternal death had risen 27 per cent since 2000. One in 3300 women was exposed to high risk of maternal death.

According to the State of the World's Mothers report, other countries like the Denmark, Spain, Switzerland and the United States have a significant increase in maternal deaths. Save the Children said the UN group responsible for gathering the data did not explain the findings and the reasons why industrialised countries have high risk of maternal deaths. The agency added that experts "do not fully understand" the high maternal mortality rate.

In the U.S., the suspected causes of high risk of maternal deaths are associated with rising rates of obesity, diabetes, hypertension and heart diseases. Many older women in the U.S. are having children that results in a high rate of Caesarian sections. These factors heightened the risks mothers face during pregnancy and childbirth.

Australia is tied in ninth place with Belgium from a previous ranking of 10 in 2013. According to the report, Australia's ranking would be higher if more women joined the Parliament. Dr Kate Worsley from Save the Children Australia said the country needs to improve in the areas of women's political participation and income.

Dr Worsley said only 31 per cent of federal MP positions are held by women. She said Australia could do better in getting women to become more involved in politics. She believes the country may retain its standing in 2015 as long as it continues to support women especially during pregnancy.

The report said the worst country for mothers is Somalia which ranked at 178 in the Mother's Index. Other nations in Africa locked in conflict and political instability also ranked low in the State of the World's Mothers report. Violence and armed conflict have changed the lives of millions women and children in nations like Syria and other countries in Central Africa.

Save the Children also noted that more evidence of women and young girls in Syria has emerged in recent times with young refugee girls being forced to marry in men from neighbouring countries.

The countries included in the State of the World's Mothers 2014 were ranked based on risk of maternal death, educational status, economic achievement, political status and under-five mortality rate.

The best places for mothers according to the State of the World's Mothers report:

1 Finland

2 Norway

3 Sweden

4 Iceland

5 Netherlands

6 Denmark

7 Spain

8 Germany

9 Australia and Belgium

16 New Zealand

23 UK

30 United States

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