War and violence, an absent State, poverty, and disease. On the day when the world celebrates Mother’s Day, we should remember those corners of the world where motherhood is a daily hell. A fight against discrimination, fundamentalism, barbaric practices and attempts to rape. The latest report from Save the Children on “The State of the mothers of the world” (published one year ago) transforms mothers into the living symbol of a more and more divided land between wealth and poverty. On the one hand countries such as Finland, Norway, Iceland and Denmark where welfare state and family policies make the most beautiful and natural “craft” in the world. On the other hand, there are perpetual tribulations of millions of women in the Third World – especially in Africa – who are forced to survive with their children in conditions that are often inhumane.
Here is a list of 10 places where it is most difficult to be a mother:
- SOMALIA: Two decades of civil war have made this country the worst in the world for mothers. The State is weak, while the educational and the medical facilities are drained. Violence against women and teenagers is rife and institutions are incapable of decisive action. Evil is often experienced as something “normal.” Not to mention the Islamist threat coming from Al Shabab, the Somali Al Qaeda cell, which is responsible for numerous massacres.
- REPUBLIC OF CONGO: The conflict between the government and rebels, finished then resumed in 2008, makes this African country a living hell. Violence, however, is mostly committed by armed groups, non-governmental militias, ex-military and tribal groups, who carry out raids and looting, with consequent massacres of civilians. Besides, malnutrition kills about 38,000 people every month. The risk of death during childbirth and HIV transmission during pregnancy is still high for women here.
- CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: the country, which has been recently visited by Pope Francis who officially opened the Jubilee of Mercy, is still in terrible conditions. It lives a chronic and prolonged health emergency. The political crisis and violence that have been ravaging the country since 2013 have aggravated the general lack of health services and 72 percent of health facilities were damaged or destroyed. Infant mortality rate reaches about 93 deaths every 1,000 births.
- MALI: Rapes are almost at the order of the day. A few years ago, hundreds of women went out in the streets in Timbuktu, holding their daughters by the hand, to protest against sexual violence, mainly at the hands of jihadist groups. The reaction was swift: a few days later, a lot of “mothers courage” (the name that was given to them with admiration by Western observers) and daughters were raped in retaliation. Moreover: violence leads to unwanted pregnancies that make infanticide cases more frequent.
- NIGER: In 2012 it led Save The Children’s chart of the worst places where to be mothers. Having lost 5 positions does not indicate, however, a significant improvement. About a mother out of 16 dies in childbirth. Women, in general, have to fight against poverty, disease, discrimination and social exclusion. Besides, the country is often attacked by Boko Haram, which frequently resorts to sexual violence.
- GAMBIA: Since 2015, it has been an “Islamic Republic”, like Iran and Afghanistan, with all the consequences it can have on mothers’ and women’s condition in general. In recent times, infibulation and other female genitals mutilation have been discouraged. Infant mortality rate reaches an average of 72 deaths within the first year of life per 1000 newborns.
- IVORY COAST: Recently, international programs have been implemented to contrast mortality among infants and pregnant women. There is a high number of teenage mothers (between 13 and 19 years old). Moreover, women in the Ivory Coast must deal with diseases (Ebola at the end of 2014 wreaked havoc in the country) and the violence of the
- CHAD: It is one of the poorest countries in the world, where only 28% of the adult population can read and write. A mom deprived of literacy is a woman who will not cater fully to the needs of their children. Boko Haram is active in Chad and Niger, and some terrorist attacks were carried out by female suicide bombers.
- GUINEA BISSAU: It is one of the leading nations as to maternal mortality rate, which is mainly concentrated in the eastern region. This is due to lack of health facilities, often far from small villages, where dozens of mothers live.
- SIERRA LEONE AND HAITI: According to Save the Children, the two of them share the same position. After the Ebola outbreak and the consequences of a long civil war, Sierra Leone must come to terms with the highest maternal mortality rate: 3,100 women die every year due to childbirth-related complications. Haiti is the only non-African country among the 10 worst ones where to be mothers. The island is still suffering the consequences of the 2010 earthquake. Giving birth to a child, but also raising and educate them is difficult there.
There is not only Africa, of course. The report mentions also mothers’ tragic condition in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Peru and Vietnam and Zimbabwe, where mortality rate of pregnant women and infants is still high.
THE ITALIAN CASE: Italy is light years away from the hell we have been talking about so far. Yet, according to another Save the Children report, mothers are forced into a difficult acrobatics between the choice of maternity and family care, which still weights mainly on their shoulders and are rendered even more onerous by lack of support services on the territory, while having to deal with a labor market that penalizes them a priori, as women, and becomes an even bigger problem when they decide to have children. The ranking of the regions show more favorable conditions for motherhood sees only the northern regions at the top, whereas the last places are reserved to southern regions. The worst, depending on the considered indicator, are Calabria and Campania, where the State is all too often absent.