September 21, 2010 / 1:18 PM / in 9 years

Forty young Europeans die violently every day: WHO

LONDON (Reuters) - More than 15,000 young people are killed by acts of violence in Europe every year, the World Health Organization said on Tuesday, and around 40 percent of those deaths are due to stabbings.

Belgian police officers stand guard at the entrance of a creche in which a knife attack occurred in Dendermonde January 23, 2009. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

In a report on violence in Europe, the WHO said the 40 deaths a day from stabbings and other attacks were an “enormous loss to society,” and many could be averted by policies that combined the health, education and criminal justice sectors.

The study found that knife carrying is common in many European countries — up to 12 percent of young people carry them in some — and that violent murder rates were highest in Russia, Albania, Kazakhstan and many eastern European nations.

Other common ways of killing young people were shooting and strangulation. Non-lethal violence is far more widespread, as it is estimated that 20 young victims of violence are admitted to hospital for each violent death, the report said.

“There is much to be gained by adapting the experience of some of the most successful European countries in preventing violence,” said Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO’s regional director for Europe, who launched the report in London.

She said that if authorities increased investment and focus on violence-prevention policies across many areas of government, Europe could potentially save more than 13,000 lives a year — nine out of every 10 violent deaths.

“This makes compelling arguments for increased investment in violence prevention, especially when rising unemployment and weakened social welfare are associated with increased violence,” Jakab said in a statement with the report.

The report urged national governments to see the causes of violence as the responsibility of society as a whole. Policies to tackle violence should cross many sectors, including health, education, welfare, labor and criminal justice, it said.

Evidence has shown that bullying in schools and in the community increases young people’s risk of involvement in violence, and there are also strong links between alcohol and drug use and carrying a weapon, the report said.

Policy-making that incorporates several or all of these sectors is more cost-effective than just dealing with violence and its consequences, it said.

“Violence among young people is a problem that cuts across government departments and sectors,” the report said. “Evidence gathered in this report from countries in Europe and beyond indicates that organized responses by society can prevent it.”

Editing by Tim Pearce

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