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There were an estimated 35,000 cases of child abuse nationwide in fiscal 2000, but only about 18,000 were probed by child welfare consultation centers, according to a Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry report released Tuesday.

The estimate of 35,000 was based on reports by organizations that include local health centers, medical institutions and schools.

It was the first survey to cover such organizations, the ministry said. In the past, the ministry only surveyed child consultation centers, which have been empowered to investigate suspected cases of child abuse.

A research group at the ministry sent surveys to 110,000 organizations nationwide. Only 40,000 groups responded.

According to the survey, the number of abuse cases reported by these organizations between April 2000 and March 2001 totaled 24,744. Based on the response rate, the ministry estimates the actual number of such cases to be somewhere near 35,000.

Of the 24,744 cases, 106 involved child abuse resulting in death, including murder-suicides. Some 1,008 children were seriously injured, and 1,515 cases resulted in pediatric injuries that required medical treatment.

Of the cases, 79 percent required expert care for children, including treatment for psychological damage. Some 56 percent of the cases involved the abuse of children under the age of 6, including newborns.

The number of cases recognized by child consultation centers is still low in light of the estimated total of reported cases of child abuse, the ministry said, adding that it aims to build local networks between the centers and health and medical organizations as well as schools in a bid to prevent mistreatment of children.

Meanwhile, the number of abuse consultations at child consultation centers in fiscal 2001 rose to a record high of about 24,800, up roughly 30 percent over the previous year, according to another survey released Tuesday by the ministry.

The latest figure represents a 23-fold increase over the 11 years since the ministry began compiling data. The number of such consultations nationwide was 1,101 in fiscal 1990.

The ministry said the increase was due in part to a law to curb child abuse that took effect in November 2000. Under the law, teachers, doctors and welfare officers are obliged to be on the lookout for early signs of abuse and report their suspicions to child consultation centers.

The ministry said it will report the latest data to a meeting of heads of child consultation centers across Japan and ask them to strengthen measures to combat child abuse.

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