Belfast Telegraph

Cold kills one person a month in province
Shock figures 'not whole story'

By Brian Hutton
15 January 2005

An average of more than one person a month in Northern Ireland dies because of exposure to the cold, according to new Government figures.

However, a leading campaigner against cold-related deaths has dismissed the figures as "disingenuous", claiming the real amount to be significantly higher.

Officially, almost 160 people over the past decade, from 1994 to 2003, had hypothermia listed as a factor on their death certificates.

In the years 1997 and 1998 the number of people who died from coldness in Northern Ireland was 44. Figures for last year are not yet known.

Majella McCloskey, of the National Energy Action group which campaigns against fuel poverty, said the figures were shocking but told only part of the story.

"Hypothermia is a very specific condition related to a period of cold weather, rather than the broader effects of living in a cold, damp house," she said.

"Anytime we have asked for the number of deaths from hypothermia we have been told that it is extremely rare, so these figures are actually quite significant.

"But it's a very narrow focus, which needs to be much wider to give us a more appropriate and accurate account of the effects of cold."

Ms McCloskey accused the Government of "being disingenuous" over the figures.

She pointed to a Department of Social Development draft consultation paper, published less than two years ago, which found that warmer homes in Northern Ireland could prevent as many as 240 deaths a year.

"I would imagine they are afraid of highlighting the true number," she said.

"They have been under a lot of pressure about fuel poverty over the last couple of months.

"I wonder if this an attempt to play it down."

Meanwhile, NIO minister John Spellar has vowed to establish an "inter-departmental group of senior officials" to combat cold-related deaths.

A Government strategy to eradicate fuel poverty in all households in Northern Ireland by 2016 provides for a ministerial group to oversee the issue.

However, Mr Spellar said that in the absence of a devolved assembly he will chair a team to "take forward, monitor and review" the strategy.

"Government are determined to eradicate fuel poverty but recognise that budgets are finite and there are many competing priorities," he said.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?