Africa is the worst continent to be a mother or child, and Mali is one of the worst countries, where one in eight children will die before seeing a first birthday, according to a study published Tuesday.
The State of the World's Mothers 2005, a report by Save The Children USA, studied 110 countries and details health and educational opportunities for mothers and their children.
"Conditions for children and mothers in the bottom-ranked countries are devastating," said Charles MacCormack, president of Save the Children. "Many children are fortunate just to survive the first five years of life and have a chance to go to school."
In Burkina Faso, fewer than one in 10 women can read and write. In Ethiopia just 25 percent of the population has access to clean water.
Scandinavian countries sweep the top rankings for the best places to be a mother, while countries in sub-Saharan Africa dominate the bottom tier, the report said. Out of the 10 worst countries to be a mother or child, seven are in Africa.
In Sweden, which tops the list, nearly all women are literate. In Ethiopia, only 34 percent of women are literate. A mother in Ethiopia is 37 times more likely to see her child die in the first year of life than a mother in Sweden.
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"The Mothers' Index clearly shows that the quality of children's lives is inextricably linked to the health and education of their mothers," MacCormack added. "In countries where mothers fare well, children fare well; in countries where mothers do poorly, children do poorly."
If the men in Africa were living well, perhaps the poor health of and lack of educational opportunities for African women and children would be newsworthy.
I think it was Aristotle who wrote that, "No matter how thin you slice it, baloney is still baloney." Thus, unless your African survey's sample population consists entirely of oil-rich, politically-connected warlords, it's going to paint a picture of a place that is a cautionary tale straight from Hobbes' Leviathan -- "No arts, no letters, no society, and which is worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death, and the life of man solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short."
Life in Africa sucks whether you're an impoverished and uneducated father, a mother without access to modern medicines, a malnourished child, or an aspiring mime with a compelling message to convey about being trapped in an invisible box. It's tragic, but it's not news to anyone at this point.