Vietnam rises in global ranking of best places for mothers

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Vietnam has jumped 14 spots to 20th in the rankings of the best places to be a mother in Save the Children's 13th State of the World's Mothers report.

In the developing countries category, Vietnam is the biggest mover in Southeast Asia.

"Tremendous progress has been made in reducing poverty in Vietnam over the last two decades through government policies and partnerships with NGOs aimed at boosting job creation, mass education, healthcare, and social protection," Pham Sinh Huy, Vietnam country director of Save the Children, said.

"It shows that the combination of political will, NGOs, and donor funding can produce rapid results for those who need it most."

Vietnam has achieved its Millennium Development Goal target of reducing under-five mortality rates by two-thirds ahead of 2015 and is also on track to hit the maternal mortality target of 58.2 deaths per 100,000 live births, he said.

"Vietnam's strong public health system has contributed to this, with over 100,000 community health station midwives/health workers who provide ... nutrition counseling and birth assistance to mothers, screen children for malnutrition, treat diarrhea and pneumonia, and counsel mothers on feeding infants and young children."

The report says Vietnam is among the top 15 countries in terms of reducing child malnutrition between 1990 and 2010, achieving 4.3 percent improvement annually.

However, the nation has a long way to go to eradicate malnutrition, remaining one of the worst affected countries with about 23 percent of children suffering from stunting.

Globally, malnutrition is the underlying cause of at least a fifth of maternal mortality and more than a third of child deaths.

The report describes Niger as the worst place to be a mother replacing Afghanistan for the first time in two years while Norway comes in at first place for the third consecutive year. The ranking compares 165 countries around the world based on factors like maternal health, education and economic status, and critical child indicators like health and nutrition.

State of the World's Mothers focuses on nutrition as one of the key factors in determining mothers' and their children's well-being. The report details a vicious cycle of how mothers, who may themselves have been stunted in childhood, go on to give birth to underweight babies who have not been adequately nourished in the womb.

Save the Children's research found that the simple measure of supporting mums to breastfeed can improve the nutritional status of children and save a million children's lives a year. It added that the best method for breaking this vicious cycle and protecting the pregnant mother and her baby from malnutrition is to focus on the first 1,000 days starting from pregnancy.

To help promote exclusive breastfeeding, the government of Vietnam, together with UN agencies and NGOs, has put in a proposal to the National Assembly for increasing maternity leave in the country from four months to six. The proposal is expected to be approved by the house this month.

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