Staff Reporter LAST year, 198 cases of child abuse were exposed on Majorca, a figure that is just “the tip of the iceberg” of a problem that is believed to affect five in every thousand of the population under 15 years of age throughout Spain. Francesc Ferrés is director of Children's Emergencies at Son Dureta hospital in Palma and president of the Balearic Association for the Defence of Abused Children (Abadim). He drew attention to these alarming figures yesterday during the presentation of a Unicef report on mortality rates amongst children as a result of ill-treatment. María Antonia Caimari, recently appointed president of the Balearic branch of Unicef, detailed the principal conclusions of this report. It reveals that on an annual basis in the industrialised nations, nearly 3'500 minors under the age of 15 die as a result of ill-treatment, either from physical abuse or as a result of abandonment. Nevertheless, she highlighted the fact that there is a small group of countries, Spain amongst them, “that indicate exceptionally low figures for death rates in this sector”. On the other hand, in other nations such as Belgium, the Czech Republic, New Zealand, Hungary and France, mortality rates amongst children as a result of ill-treatment are between four and six times above average. In the United States, Mexico and Portugal, the death rate is between 10 and 15 times higher than average. Maria José Saavedra, committee member of Unicef in the Balearics, emphasized that “children less than a year old run triple the risk of dying through ill-treatment than those aged between 1 and 4. These in turn, however, run twice the risk of dying than those aged between 5 and 14 years of age. The reason, she explained “is that babies are completely unprotected, without any possibility of formal complaint or being in a position to condemn the perpetrator”. Gaspar Rul.lán, former Balearic Unicef chief, said that Spain's civil laws permit the “reasonable punishment” of minors, which “is open to much interpretation”.