Portugal’s president, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, on Monday expressed concern at figures showing an increase in infant mortality in the country, arguing that there is a need to determine the causes so that the trend does not continue.
“Assuming these numbers correspond to reality, it worries me,” the president said. “Because one of the banners of the democracy [following the 1974 coup that ended the Salazar dictatorship] was a revolutionary change in the domain of infant mortality, a drastic reduction.”
De Sousa was speaking in Porto, which he was visiting at the invitation of the city’s mayor, independent Rui Moreira, to attend a presentation of a plan to convert the old Campanhã industrial slaughterhouse. In his comments, he declined to interpret the figures on child mortality, but stressed that he “would like” to understand, with the help of experts, whether they corresponded to reality and, if so, why this had happened.
“If what has been reported is true and, if it is true that one of the achievements of [the 1974 Revolution] has gone into reverse, then what is necessary is to ascertain why this has happened, so that it does not continue to happen,” he said.
According to official data that are as yet provisional, last year there were 3.28 deaths in the first year of life per thousand live births, up from 2.69 in 2017 and 3.24 in 2016. Last year’s rigure was, according to the Directorate-General of Health (DGS), the highest since 2013.
The publication of the figures by Correio da Manhã newspaper prompted the Order of Doctors to request a rapid action to ascertain the causes of the sharp increase in infant mortality.
The DGS has said, however, that the provisional figures for 2018 are within the normal range as well as remaining below the European Union average.
In comments to journalists, the director-general, Graça Freitas, noted that the 2018 provisional figure of 3.28 deaths per thousand births was very similar to the 2016 figure. Last year’s figure should not be compared solely to that of 2017, she said, since the latter was “abnormally low”.