BEIJING, May 6 (Xinhua) -- The mortality rate for children under five in China has dropped by more than two-thirds since 1990, while maternal mortality has been cut by 70 percent, said a report released by the world's leading independent charity, Save the Children, on Tuesday.
Now in its 15th edition, the State of the World's Mothers 2014 report compared an unprecedented 178 countries. The annual report ranked China as 61st on its list of best places to be a mother, up seven spots from last year.
Topping the list was Finland for the second straight year, while Somalia came in last. China ranked ahead of fellow large emerging economies such as Brazil, South Africa and India. But it still placed behind some Asian countries, including Singapore, Japan and South Korea.
"China has been consistently rising on the index, with dramatic cuts in maternal and child mortality," said Pia MacRae, country director for Save the Children in China.
"[This is] the result of strong political will and willingness to invest in healthcare for children, which is a tremendous achievement given the size of the country and population," she said.
But she told Xinhua that China still needs to make further efforts to address the challenges of uneven development, which has led to inequalities in health outcomes. For instance, children living in rural and remote areas have a much higher under-five mortality rate and anemia rate compared with their urban counterparts.
"Save the Children has worked closely with the government and civil society partners to bring immediate and lasting improvements in children's health, in particular supporting the training and supervision of frontline health workers in remote areas of rural China," she said.
Launched in the year 2000, this year's report focuses on mothers in humanitarian crises, who face many obstacles to keeping their children healthy.
"China is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world," said MacRae. "The eastern coastline is frequently battered by strong typhoons, while the central areas are prone to earthquakes. The country also suffers seasonal flooding and landslides."
In the aftermath of such disasters, she added, young children are particularly vulnerable to waterborne illnesses such as diarrhea due to the lack of clean drinking sources.
Therefore, the children's aid agency recommends breastfeeding to prevent diseases and boost nutrition and the immune systems of young children.
"Breastfeeding is the world's most powerful defense when it comes to saving children's lives," MacRae said. "Not only does it provide infants with a complete form of nutrition, it also builds children's immune system and protects them against diarrhea, malnutrition and other illnesses which are common in the aftermath of disasters."