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Save the Children’s Annual State of the World’s Mothers Report reveals dramatic improvements in Vietnam

Press release   •   May 08, 2012 14:01 +08

Vietnam has jumped 14 spots up the rankings of the best places to be a mother in Save the Children’s thirteenth State of the World’s Mothers report. Under the developing countries category, Vietnam jumped from 34th in 2011 to 20th this year – the single largest improvement in Southeast Asia.

Overall, the report showed that Niger is 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 globe, taking into account factors such as maternal health, education and economic status, as well as critical child indicators like health and nutrition.

“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. It shows that the combination of political will, NGOs and donor funding can produce rapid results for those who need it most,” said Mr. Pham Sinh Huy, country director of Save the Children in Vietnam.

Vietnam has achieved their Millennium Development Goal target of reducing under-five mortality rates by two-thirds ahead of 2015[1]. It is also on track to meeting the maternal mortality target of 58.2 deaths per 100,000 live births. “Vietnam’s strong public health system has contributed to this, with over 100,000 community health station midwives/health workers who provide antenatal care including nutrition counseling, and birth assistance to mothers and who screen children for malnutrition, treat diarrhea and pneumonia and counsel mothers on infant and young child feeding.” Mr. Pham Sinh Huy

Vietnam is amongst the top 15 countries with the greatest progress in child malnutrition between 1990 and 2010, at 4.3 percent annually. However, the nation still has a long way to go to eradicate malnutrition – it remains one of the most-affected countries worldwide with about 23 per cent of Vietnamese 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.

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 1000 days starting from pregnancy. 

To help promote exclusive breastfeeding, the governments of Vietnam, together with UN agencies and NGOs have put in a proposal to the National Assembly for increasing maternity leave in the country from four months to six months. The proposal is expected to be approved by the national assembly in May.

Mr. Pham Sinh Huy said: “Our report shows that a single nutrition intervention can help prevent stunting in children. Policies and programs must be put in place in to ensure all mothers have the support they need to choose to breastfeed if they want to. Acting now not only saves lives, but saves dollars as well.”

Individuals wanting to join EVERY ONE, Save the Children’s Newborn and Child Survival campaign can visit and sign our petition to help world leaders commit to saving children's lives. This website will also host the charity’s live interactive video conference discussing Motherhood on the 8th May with high-profile Global Mothers.


For more information, and for graphics and charts, social media assets, case studies, photos, footage or interviews, please contact Dinh Thi Hai Hoa at or (84-4) 3573 5050.

For a full copy of the report and additional information, visit

Notes to Editors

Globally, malnutrition claims more than 2.6 million young lives each year, and, of those who survive, 171 million face a #hiddencrisis of chronic malnutrition which stunts their physical and mental growth and leaves them unable to ever reach their full potential.

The direct cost of the malnutrition crisis, affecting both the developed and developing world, is estimated at $20 to $30 billion per year.

In a number of countries – including Cambodia, Vietnam, Malawi and Nepal –health workers have contributed to broad-scale success in fighting malnutrition and saving lives.

Country Comparisons: Vietnam/Norway

-Almost 100% of births are attended by skilled health personnel in Norway compared to 88% in Vietnam

-82% of Norwegian women use modern contraception compared to 80% of women in Vietnam

-A child's risk of death in Norway is 1/333 compared to 1 in 43 in Vietnam

-In Norway, the risk of maternal death is 1/7,600. In Vietnam, 1 woman in 850 will die from pregnancy related causes. 

[1] Overseas Development Institute (2011c) ‘Viet Nam’s Progress on Economic Growth and Poverty Reduction.’ Development Progress Story. London: ODI

Save the Children works in 120 countries. We save children's lives. We fight for their rights. We help them fulfil their potential.

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