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Belgian Children (Food Supplies)

Volume 389: debated on Wednesday 26 May 1943

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31. Mr.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Economic Warfare whether he is aware of the heavy mortality among Belgian children due to serious shortage of food; and whether he will grant navicerts to permit, under proper control as to its distribution, the entry into Belgium of say 2,000 to 3,000 tons a month of vitamins, milk and medicine, to be supplied to children under 16 years of age and nursing and expectant mothers?

While it is, I regret to say, true that the food shortage in Belgium is felt severely by the child population, my information does not confirm that, taking the country as a whole, these conditions have caused any striking increase in child as distinct from infant mortality. According to statistics recently published in Belgium there was, last year, a fall in the death-rate of infants under one year of age. The figures for deaths per thousand live births were in 1939, 73; in 1940, 89; in 1941, 85; and in 1942, 78. As regards milk and vitamins I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave on 19th May to my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing (Sir F. Sanderson). Medical supplies in the strict sense of the term are and always have been allowed to pass through the blockade.