A shocking report has found that infant mortality levels in Birmingham are seven deaths per 1,000 live births, compared with 3.9 deaths in England overall, with more than 100 babies dying before their first birthday each year in the city.
Infant mortality rates are highest in the areas of the city with the worst deprivation levels. Families of Pakistani origin are disproportionately affected, and the report suggested that the potential risk of marriages between cousins might be a potential contributing factor to the increased mortality. However, similar high rates of infant mortality were not seen in other areas with large Pakistani communities, such as the London boroughs of Waltham Forest and Redbridge.
Britain ranks amongst the worst in Europe for infant mortality. A study by the British Medical Journal (BMJ) found that Britain had 3.9 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2014 and is trending upwards after a steady decline from the year 2000.
This trend shows strong correlations with the rates of child poverty across Britain, and as Birmingham is home to some of the highest rates of child poverty in the country, with some areas such as Birmingham Ladywood having 55% of children living in poverty, it should come as no surprise that Birmingham has the highest infant mortality rate in the country.
Birmingham councillors have voted to create a multi-agency task force to reduce infant mortality in the city by at least 50 percent by 2025. Its remit includes working with community groups and faith leaders to help minimise the risk factors. However, since poverty is a key correlating factor in high infant mortality, it will take more than community groups and faith leaders to reduce infant mortality.
The Workers Party of Britain, Birmingham branch, demands a broadening of the discussion to look at social class. The redistribution of wealth and the improvement of the material conditions for Birmingham’s most deprived is an urgent necessity.
Hard-working families are sinking into poverty while the council wastes millions in vanity projects. Already, Birmingham has secured more than £2 million in funding for large plant boxes to shut off some residential streets as part of a ‘green’ solution to congestion, under a scheme known as an LTN (low-traffic neighbourhood).
The Birmingham Workers Party branch, meanwhile, has been campaigning for many months for FREE bus travel for children across the West Midlands – a move with obvious benefits for work, education and public peace that would cost a mere £7 million.
This is the sort of measure that could improve the lives of Birmingham’s poorest right now.