One in five child deaths in the East London borough of Redbridge have been directly attributed to the fact that the parents were related
Redbridge Council’s health and wellbeing board have held a meeting to discuss the shocking finding that 19% of child deaths in the borough from 2008 - 2016 were caused by the fact that the child's parents were related.
It's important to note that we're not talking about incest here, but consanguineous relationships - which the dictionary defines as 'people descended from the same ancestor.' In practice, this means people who are second cousins or closer.
Consanguineous relationships increase the risk of genetic defects (Credit: Getty)
Although the practise of marrying cousins is largely seen as outdated in the UK, it's still very popular in many other places in the world.
In a research paper on the medical issues around consanguineous relationships, Professor Hanan Hamamy explains: "Consanguinity is a deeply rooted social trend among one-fifth of the world population mostly residing in the Middle East, West Asia and North Africa, as well as among emigrants from these communities now residing in North America, Europe and Australia."
Multiple studies have found that children born to parents who are related are at higher risk of suffering from genetic abnormalities.
According to a BBC report: "In terms of birth defects... the risks rise from about 2% in the general population to 4% when the parents are closely related.
"The genetic conditions more common in populations with high rates of consanguineous marriage are rare recessive disorders which cause a wide range of problems, such as blindness, deafness, skin diseases, and neurodegenerative conditions."
Redbrige are looking into ways to educate local families of the risks of inter-marriage (Credit: Getty)
In Redbridge, the report showed that 9% of child deaths were in the borough's Pakistani community, where consanguineous marriage is still very popular.
Discussing the council's plans to tackle the issue, Councillor Joyce Ryan said: “Although everyone is battling hard at this it is something that some communities struggle to accept and sometimes do not want to accept.”
However, according to the Ilford Record, Redbridge’s director of public health, Vicky Hobart, was keen to insist that the issue not be blown out of proportion, saying: “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.”