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Ireland, UK and Malta have the highest death rates for children in western Europe

Last year, 300 children under the age of five died in Ireland.

Image: Child's Coffin via Shutterstock

IRELAND HAS THE third highest death rate for children under five in western Europe, according to new research published this week.

The Lancet paper shows that Malta, the UK and Ireland have the highest rates out of 22 nations classified under the ‘western Europe’ category.

Although the authors note that the number of deaths are still ‘very low’ when compared to other international standards, the three countries have higher rates than the rest of the region.

The mortality rate in Ireland for children under five is 4.6 deaths per 1000 births, almost double that in Iceland, which was the lowest recorded at 2.4 deaths per 1,000 births.

Malta came in with the worst record with 7 deaths per 1,000 births, followed by the UK with 4.9 deaths per 1,000 births.

The findings come from a new study coordinated by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington in Seattle. Their figures provide a comprehensive new analysis of global progress towards reducing child mortality.

With 3,800 deaths of children under 5 last year, the UK also had the highest absolute number of deaths in the region.

Ireland saw 300 children die during 2013. The greatest number of deaths were recorded in the zero-to-six-days-old category.

Across Europe as a whole, child mortality rates are substantially worse in Central Europe (average mortality rate 6.7 deaths per 1000 births) and Eastern Europe (average mortality rate 9.7 deaths per 1000 births); the UK and Ireland’s under-5 mortality rate is comparable to that of Serbia and Poland.

Dr Christopher Murray, Director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) and the study’s senior author said the “higher than expected child death rates in the UK are a reminder to all of us that, even as we are seeing child mortality decline worldwide, countries need to examine what they are doing to make sure more children grow into adulthood”.

Globally, rates of child deaths have been declining since 1990, with a sharper rate of decline in many countries observed since the Millennium Development Goals were established in 2000.

Here are the rates for the 22 ‘western Europe’ countries (deaths per 1,000 livebirths):

  • Andorra: 2.6
  • Austria: 4.1
  • Belgium: 4.2
  • Cyprus: 4.1
  • Denmark: 3.8
  • Finland: 3.0
  • France: 3.7
  • Germany: 3.6
  • Greece: 4.0
  • Iceland: 2.4
  • Israel: 4.3
  • Italy: 3.7
  • Luxembourg: 2.8
  • Malta: 7.0
  • Netherlands: 4.1
  • Norway: 3.0
  • Portugal: 3.5
  • Spain: 3.6
  • Sweden: 2.7
  • Switzerland: 4.3
  • UK: 4.9

*Correction: An initial version of this story put the figure for deaths last year at 3,000. It should have read 300. 

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