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Irish infant mortality rate alarmingly high
A mother feeding her baby. Detail from an ad for baby food. Photo: Illustrated London News [London, England], 28 Sept 1907

Irish infant mortality rate alarmingly high

Doctors blame poverty and ignorance

Dublin, 21 May 1917 - Nine in every 100 Irish children die before the age of one.

This stark fact was revealed in the Report on the Physical Health of Mothers and Children, prepared by Dr E. Coey Bigger for the Local Government Board. The report underlines the extent to which the state is only now beginning to grapple with the questions affecting child welfare.

Dr Bigger states that poverty and poor housing conditions in many towns are the primary factors concerned in infant mortality. This is borne out by the figures. Whereas the mortality rate in Kerry and Monaghan, is between 60 and 70 per thousand, Dublin City is the worst with 160.3 with other cities also having high figures: Londonderry 142.45, Belfast 136.73 and Cork 118.84.

The report provides recommendations as to how this can be tackled. These include schemes for the instruction of nursing and expectant mothers, the establishment of infant welfare centres, and the provision of open spaces and covered playgrounds in working class districts in towns.

[Editor's note: This is an article from Century Ireland, a fortnightly online newspaper, written from the perspective of a journalist 100 years ago, based on news reports of the time.]


Century Ireland

The Century Ireland project is an online historical newspaper that tells the story of the events of Irish life a century ago.