Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Not cake

Sporadically I blog about cake - sometimes about veg.
However this evening I've been thinking about statistics, and specifically death rates.

Because given the events that are unfolding in Syria, the Mediterranean and across Europe, it's hard not to think about these things.

And having thought, and researched and calculated, to put some things into context for myself, I thought I might as well share. 

It's easy to see and hear numbers in news bulletins from places half-way across a continent or country and lose any sense of how they relate to our safe and unthreatened lifestyles, homes and families.

I have to be open in admitting my analysis is simplistic, using readily derivable data, taken on face value, and that inherently I'm no doubt comparing apples and pears. However, as an indicator of scale I found it helpful - and sobering.

I've used IOM arrivals and mortality data to calculate year-to-date death rates for refugees fleeing Syria by boat. (Data from this press release) For comparability the following death rates are per 100,000 people, based entirely on recorded data - no forward projection has been included. This data is a snapshot in time and may significantly change in future.
  • All routes: 748 
  • Central Mediterranean Route: 2,047
  • East Mediterranean Route: 40
  • West Mediterranean / West African Route: 1,051
In calculating these, I have assumed that the recoded deaths are in addition to the recorded arrivals. If they are already incorporated, then the rates will be higher.

And now for the context.

I've chosen a range of figures from the National Records of Scotland 2014 deaths data (Vital Events data taken from here). Again, death rates are quotes per 100,000 people. Data is split male/female - in each case I've taken the greater.
  • All causes (all genders): 1,014
  • Cancers (male): 320
  • Circulatory: 287
  • Respiratory: 130
  • All external causes: 61
  • Accidents: 40
  • Transport related: 6
The death rate for the single journey make by thousands fleeing via the Central Mediterranean route is twice as high as the death rate from all causes in Scotland last year, and 17 times greater than the rate for deaths from external causes (i.e. not illness). And that is without factoring in the violence these people are fleeing, and the arduous journeys, human trafficking, abuse, heat, exhaustion, dehydration, lack of sanitation, food and medical care at either end of their sea voyages.

As I said - I know my sets of figures aren't directly comparable - but then absolutely nothing the majority of us have within our real frame of reference and comprehension is.

No-one puts themselves, their children or families through that sort of ordeal unless utterly desperate. At a human level, as a nation we should be helping, not trying to work out how to bureaucratically pass the buck, or how to legitimately minimise our national responsibility and justify our lack of support to other humans in crisis with spin and fear.

In 2014, there were 54,239 deaths in Scotland.
In 2015 to date there have been 2,432 in the Mediterranean sea.
That's 5% of the total deaths form all causes in our entire nation last year, in only 8 months as a result of a single collective desperate escape.

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