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Professor Alan Stein of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Oxford: 'There is already good evidence that children's risk of dying increases around the time of their mother's death and especially after they die, but little is known about the period before she dies.'

Oxford researchers highlight need for support of vulnerable african children when mother becomes seriously ill

Young children in poorer countries who lose their mother are at increased risk from when she becomes seriously ill, not just in the period following her death.

An international study including Oxford University researchers found increased risk of mortality among children aged under five in the months before their mother's death, as well as in the months after her death.

The research was carried out in a disadvantaged area in northeast South Africa near the border with Mozambique, and the results are published in the journal PLOS Medicine.