The Best Places in the World to be a Mom: Norway and Australia

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Looks like someone's flying off to Norway.

In advance of Mother’s Day—don’t worry, you still have time to pick up the mandatory bath salts and dandelions—the international NGO Save the Children has come out with its 2011 State of the World’s Mothers report. Which locales are the most mommy friendly?  

In a survey of 164 countries (43 of them “developed,” 121 in the developing world), Save the Children has named Norway the absolute best place to be a mother and Afghanistan the very worst. The nations were ranked according to their health, economic and educational standards for women and children. In other words, this “Mothers” report is relevant to all the ladies, whether they’re with kiddie or not.

(More on TIME.com: See why too many women are dying in the U.S. while having babies)

Behind Norway, the top places in which to bring a baby into the world are, in order, Australia, Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, New Zealand, Finland, Belgium, the Netherlands and France. (The Nordic nations cleaned up!) The U.S. ranks 31st and Britain comes in 13th. And before Afghanistan, the last locales on the list are, from bad to worse, the Central African Republic, Sudan, Mali, Eritrea, DR Congo, Chad, Yemen, Guinea-Bissau and Niger. Close to half the population in those countries still lacks access to clean water, according to the report. In more optimistic news, 14 of the 15 countries that receive the most U.S. development aid have reduced their child mortality rates by 20 to 77 percent over the past 21 years.

“This Mother’s Day, world leaders should honor mothers everywhere by ensuring they can celebrate what they want most—healthy children,” Mary Beth Powers, head of Save the Children’s newborn and child survival campaign, said.

The star of the survey, Norway, raced to the lead thanks to its low maternal and child death rates, laudable health care and system of maternal leave. Norwegian mothers benefit from an entire year of paid leave, one of the most generous schemes worldwide. One in every 175 Norwegian children die before the age of five. In Afghanistan, where only 14% of births are attended by a health worker, an average of one in every five children under the age of five is lost. One in every eleven women there die in childbirth, which represents the highest rate of maternal mortality internationally.

But no matter what its standing, every country is urged by the NGO to improve circumstances for mommies and babies. The U.N. has said that its aim of curbing maternal and child mortality rates is the Millennium Development Goal on which the least progress has been made so far. So why not make a donation to help some distant mum in need and skip the salts this year?

(More on TIME.com: Is India doing enough for its children?)

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