Aisha’s Pakistani-born parents, Mohammed and Barkat, are first cousins. There is fresh and growing evidence that marriage between relatives within the Pakistani community may be to blame – in part at least – for a dramatic rise in the number of children with genetic disorders being treated in British hospitals.
Figures obtained by The Mail on Sunday under Freedom of Information laws reveal a huge challenge, not only for such communities, but also for the Health Service. And it comes with vast financial implications.
The figures show that up to 20 per cent of the children treated for congenital problems in cities such as Sheffield, Glasgow and Birmingham are of Pakistani descent, a figure significantly greater than the background populations, which can be four per cent or lower.
Birmingham Children’s Hospital alone has seen the number of Pakistani children treated for genetic disorders increase by as much as 43 per cent since 2011.
Officials admit it is impossible to calculate the cost of treating these problems, but there is no doubting the extraordinary scale of the expense, which even in 2004 was estimated at £2billion a year.
Today that figure will be substantially greater still, as hospitals diagnose an ever broader range of conditions and new treatments become available.
This is not news in Britain – inbreeding among Muslims was addressed in this Channel 4 documentary series; Dispatches – When Cousins Marry which originally aired in 2010, the full documentary is below.