El Estado de las Madres Latinoamericanas / The State of Latin American Mothers

El Estado de las Madres Latinoamericanas

El 8 de mayo pasado, la ONG británica Save the Children publicó su decimotercer Informe del Estado Mundial de las Madres, llamando la atención a los “171 millones de niños en el mundo que no tendrán la oportunidad de alcanzar todo su potencial debido a los efectos físicos y mentales de la mala alimentación durante los primeros meses de vida”. La organización sostiene que una alimentación adecuada es de vital importancia tanto para los individuos como para las sociedades, ya que aumenta la capacidad de los niños a aprender y crecer, y a convertirse en adultos sanos y productivos.

El informe hace hincapié en la importancia del bienestar de las madres como indicador de la futura salud y educación del niño, de modo que el informe trata de factores tan diversos como la representación de las mujeres en la legislatura, sus ingresos económicos, el acceso al agua potable, la matriculación escolar y las tasas de mortalidad infantil y maternal.

A continuación, en la página web de Análisis Latino, aquí.


The State of Latin American Mothers

On May 8 British NGO Save the Children released its 13th State of the World’s Mothers Report, drawing attention to the “171 million children globally who do not have the opportunity to reach their full potential due to the physical and mental effects of poor nutrition in the earliest months of life”. The organization argues that adequate nutrition during the first 1,000 days after conception is vital for both individuals and societies, improving children’s ability to learn and grow into healthier, more productive adults.

The report places emphasis on the importance of a mother’s wellbeing as a vital indicator of the probable future health and education of her child and the report deals with such diverse factors as women’s representation in parliament, women’s pay, access to clean drinking water, school enrolments and infant mortality rates.

Norway emerges as the best place in the world to be a mother, followed by Iceland and Sweden. Except for NZ and Australia, all of the countries in the top ten are European. The United States is in 25th position and African countries fill the bottom ten positions, with Niger coming last.

Cuba tops the Mothers’ Index ranking of less developed countries, followed by Israel and Barbados. Argentina takes fourth place and Uruguay is in sixth. Guatemala and Honduras are Latin America’s worst performance in 68th and 60th place out of the less developed countries.

The Cuban government has long sought to legitimise its dictatorial rule through its social programs: the results in terms of maternal and infant mortality, school enrolments, access to contraception and safe drinking water and the life expectancy and education of mothers are apparent and rather unsurprising. More interesting are the efforts of the region’s other countries, some of which have made impressive efforts in a context of democratic government and market economies.

Brazil, for example, is currently making the region’s fastest gains against child malnutrition. The country has shown a 5.5% annual decrease in stunting, which is the seventh highest rate of decline among developing countries worldwide (Uzbekistan is in the lead with 6.7%). This has, over the last twenty years in Brazil, resulted in a decrease in stunting rates of over 60%.

The country’s impressive program of community health agents, in place nationally since the early 1990s, is highlighted as a contributing factor to its success. These more than 246,000 agents are selected in a public and transparent process with considerable local input and reside in communities in which they work. During the life of the program there has been a more than 90% decline in diarrhea-related mortality and stunting has been reduced from 19 to 7%.

Peru has made the most progress of any Latin American country in reducing child mortality, and tops the Infant and Toddler Feeding Scorecard of developing countries. The report highlights the Peruvian government’s 2006 launch of the Programa Integral de Nutrición (PIN) and the Ministry of Health’s efforts to promote breastfeeding. These efforts, integrated with the support of NGOs and the donor community, has reduced chronic malnutrition amongst under-5s by about a quarter since 2005.

Both countries demonstrate the potential success of government programs conducted in concert with civil society and local communities.

Latin America is seeing an overall decline in child stunting, although some countries, among them Guatemala and Honduras, continue to experience high levels. The region also displays considerable inequality: “The poorest children in Guatemala and Nicaragua are more than six times as likely to be underweight as their wealthy peers. In Honduras, they are eight times as likely, and in El Salvador and Peru, they are 13 and 16 times as likely to be underweight.”

Mothers’ Index

Argentina finds itself in second place in the overall Mothers’ Index, held back by three indicators in particular. Only 64% of women use modern contraception, and in this aspect the country is in ninth place regionally, behind Paraguay, Nicaragua and El Salvador, although ahead of Chile in 12th place (42%). Argentine women on average earn only 0.51 times as much as their male counterparts and have a 1 in 600 lifetime chance of maternal death, more that three times that of Chile, where the probability is 1 in 2000.

The best place in Latin America to be a working woman is Colombia, where women earn 0.71 times as much as men, followed by Paraguay with 0.64. Honduras and Nicaragua are tied as the worst performers in this aspect, with 0.34. Moving from the economic to the political, Panama and Brazil show a considerable underrepresentation of women in national government (9% and 10% respectively).

The region’s poorest performers are Guatemala and Honduras. In Guatemala, women face a 1 in 210 lifetime chance of maternal death, while in Honduras this is only marginally better with a 1 in 240 chance. Bolivia is the only country in Latin America where it is more dangerous to be a mother: this probability is 1 in 150. This is linked to the lack of skilled attendants at birth: in Guatemala only 51% of births are attended and only 34% of women have access to modern contraception.

In Guatemala 14% of children under five are moderately or severely overweight, and in Honduras this rate is 8%. The under five morality rate in these two countries is 32% and 24% respectively.


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