A new report has found that one in five recent child deaths in a London borough occurred because the infant’s parents are related.
A meeting this month of the health and wellbeing board of the London Borough of Redbridge, in East London, disclosed that of the 200-plus infant deaths recorded there between 2008 and 2016, 19 per cent were attributable to ‘consanguineous relationships’ – couples who are at least second cousins or more closely related. Such relationships are not illegal in Britain.
Council health bosses stated that nine per cent of the children who died in the borough came from Pakistani families.
In each case, the causes of death were identified as ‘genetic and congenital abnormalities’, the board was told.
Redbridge has a significant Asian population which has grown markedly in recent years at the same time as the area’s traditional white British population has moved elsewhere.
The most recent UK census, taken in 2011, confirmed that 23 per cent of people classed as White British quit the borough in the previous decade. At the same time, ethnic groups whose proportions rose include Pakistani, which was up 4.9 per cent; other Asians, up 4.4 per cent; and Bangladeshi up 3.9 per cent.
Religious groups whose proportions fell in Redbridge were Christian, down 13.9 per cent; and Jews down 2.5 per cent. The Muslim population rose by 11.4 per cent and the Hindu population was up 3.6 per cent.
According to the Ilford Recorder, Gladys Xavier, chairwoman of the Child Death Overview Panel (CDOP), said ‘educational programmes’ had been launched among Asian communities in the area, while schools had been asked to ‘put greater emphasis on genetics’ so young people understand potential dangers of interfamily marriages.
The newspaper also quoted the council’s director of public health, Vicky Hobart, who warned that the report should not be ‘misunderstood’.
According to the paper, she said: ‘Consanguinity is very common in many cultures and the worry with something like this is that we are dealing with very small numbers.
‘It is important to note trends but we should not read too much into it.’