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Mortality report “a call to prioritise children’s wellbeing”

Media releases

27 September 2021

Aotearoa New Zealand must ask if the lives of children and young people are being systemically undervalued, as mortality statistics show high numbers of rangatahi dying by suicide, and pēpi of SUDI, the Children’s Commissioner and Assistant Māori Commissioner say.

 According to the Child and Youth Mortality Review Committee 2,666 babies, children and young people died in the five years from 2015 to 2019  - many from preventable causes.

“I’m just so deeply concerned, that over the past few years we haven’t really made more progress – and it was within our grasp to do so,” Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft says.

“This report is an unmistakeable call to prioritise children’s health and wellbeing as never before. All government departments can and must do better. We have a world-leading vision and strategy for children and young people’s wellbeing, but not the action to match it.

As Commissioner I’d be failing in my duty if I didn’t urge more determined and prioritised action, especially Māori and Pacific children who are so much more likely to die than others.”

The most common causes of deaths in the five-year period were suicide, transportation, cancers, and Sudden Infant Death in Infancy (SUDI).

Deprivation was strongly related to the deaths, with children in the most deprived decile more than three times as likely to die as the least deprived children. But poverty wasn’t the only factor.

Mokopuna Māori in the most deprived decile were still nearly twice as likely to die as non-Maori/Pacific children and young people. Meanwhile, pēpi Maori and Pacific babies were more than 6 and 8 times as likely, respectively, to die of SUDI as non-Māori/Pacific babies.

Assistant Māori Commissioner Glenis Philip-Barbara says it is time to stop tolerating enormous inequities in outcomes for mokopuna Māori and Pacific children and young people and address the barriers to their wellbeing.

“It should not be normal, or acceptable that mokopuna Māori and Pacific die at such high rates,” Ms Philip-Barbara says.

“These tragedies are not natural. Urgent action is needed to both improve incomes for whānau and remove the barriers to their health and wellbeing that are built into every part of society.

“It’s great to see the Kia Manawanui Mental Wellbeing Strategy and the Māori Health Authority being stood up to prioritise these. The test of their success will be these tragedies reducing.

“The current disparities in Covid vaccination, and the young age of Māori and Pacific communities, make the need for those barriers to be tackled even more urgently,” she says.

Commissioner Becroft says the statistics bring to life the fact that poverty, and discrimination don’t exist in a vacuum.

“This brings home the importance of lifting family incomes, and ending child and family poverty once and for all,” Commissioner Becroft says.





Leah Haines (she/her)

Manager, Communications

Te Tari o te Kaikomihana mō ngā Tamariki

Office of the Children’s Commissioner www.occ.org.nz

Phone 027 696 5101




The Office of the Children's Commissioner advocates for the best interests of all children and young people in New Zealand and looks to ensure all their rights are respected and upheld. 

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