LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Acid attacks cost Britain 60 million pounds ($80 million)a year, according to experts who say the number of attacks - which often target girls and women - has more than trebled since 2014.
The analysis, released on Monday, is the first attempt to evaluate the economic impact of acid attacks in Britain, which is looking at new measures to tackle the devastating crime.
Almost 950 attacks were reported last year, according to the charity Acid Survivors Trust International (ASTI).
“There is an obvious moral case for intervention, but these figures show that the costs associated with acid attacks are astronomical,” ASTI executive director Jaf Shah told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
ASTI and economics consultancy firm Frontier Economics estimated each attack cost 63,000 pounds, and predicted the total cost between 2015 and 2020 would be about 345 million pounds.
They looked at costs to the health service, including medical and psychosocial support, costs to the police, judicial and penal systems, and the cost to victims of lost earnings and reduced productivity.
Acid attacks cause skin and tissue to melt, leaving victims facing permanent disfigurement, medical complications, psychological trauma and social and economic ostracisation. Survivors often require long-term support.
Shah, who will address parliamentarians next week, said he hoped similar studies could be done in other countries to persuade governments to invest more in tackling the crime.
“As an organization, we are trying to make a clear case for intervention based on the damage done to survivors, but we know governments quite often determine policies (based) on the impact on the economy,” Shah said.
Worldwide, three quarters of acid attacks are directed at girls and women, often by spurned suitors and jealous partners.
The picture is different in Britain, where there has been a rise in acid attacks in London linked to robberies and gang violence. Outside the capital, however, Shah said just over half of victims were women.
The government recently introduced a new Offensive Weapons Bill which would ban the sale of corrosives to under-18s and make it a crime to possess a corrosive substance in a public place without good reason.
Acid attack survivor Katie Gee, who was left badly scarred after a man hurled corrosive fluid over her in Zanzibar in 2013, welcomed the economic analysis.
“We often recognize the physical, psychological and emotional toll that an acid attack has on a survivor, their family and friends, yet the economic burden ... on society and the government as a result is often overlooked,” she said in a statement.
Reporting by Emma Batha, Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories.