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Norway ranked best country by U.N.

UNITED NATIONS -- Norway is the best country to live in, and Sierra Leone the worst, according to a United Nations report.

The Human Development Rrport, released on Tuesday, ranked 162 countries according to per capita income, health care, life expectancy and educational levels.

Australia followed Norway in second place, with both countries narrowly ahead of Canada, the leader for the last six years, which slipped due to statistical revisions, the authors said.

U.N. list of best and worst countries  

The 265-page report this year concentrates on technology and genetically-modified crops, but the index is basic so that developing nations can be measured by comparable statistics, co-author Kate Raworth told Reuters.

However, she urged the West not to gloat about its high rankings.

In Norway, Australia and Canada pockets of poverty were prevalent enough so that one out of ever nine or 10 people was not expected to live to the age of 60.

The rate is lowest in Sweden (ranked fourth) and Japan (ninth), where one out of eight people is expected to die before 60 years of age.

In the U.S., ranked sixth, the probability of an infant not surviving to the age of 60 is 12.8 percent, the report shows.

"If they are serious about improving peoples' lives, they should look at poverty and focus on a higher hurdle," Raworth said.

In Asia, Hong Kong, Singapore and Korea rank highest after Japan and in Latin America and the Caribbean, the index is led by Barbados, Argentina, Uruguay and Chile.

At the bottom of the index were sub-Sahara African nations, which suffer the broadest range of social and economic disadvantages. This year, of the 36 nations considered lowest in human development, 29 are in Africa.

Projections for life expectancy in Africa have dropped appreciably because of the 25 million people infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

In Botswana, for example, the life expectancy dropped from 53 years for a person born 1975 to 44 years of age for someone born in 2000.

Sierra Leone, Burundi and Ethiopia are among those at the end of the index, emerging from or still engulfed in warfare.

The report urged the richest nations to overcome their fear of genetically engineered food if they wanted to help eradicate poverty in the poorest countries.

While critics view crops modified using biotechnology as potentially harmful because not enough research has been done to determine their safety, the UN said such food could be the answer to feeding the world's hungry.

Crops altered to produce higher yields could revolutionise farming in Africa, Latin America and across the underdeveloped world, it added.

• United Nations

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