A total of 1,991 minors in Japan aged under 18 were victims of child abuse last year, marking a 42.8 percent jump from the previous year and hitting a record high, the National Police Agency said in a report on Thursday.

Of the victims, 54 died, including 10-year-old Mia Kurihara in a high-profile case. Her parents have been indicted for physically abusing her and depriving her of sleep and nutrition. Mia was found dead in the bathroom of their home in Noda near Tokyo on Jan. 24, 2019.

A record-high 98,222 minors were referred to child welfare centers nationwide on suspicion of being abused, up 22.4 percent, and a record-high 5,553 minors were taken into protective custody by police, up 21.5 percent, according to the report.

The police act to protect children whose lives are in imminent danger or in cases where child welfare centers cannot immediately take them in, particularly at night.

The police launched investigations into 1,972 suspected cases of child abuse, up 42.9 percent, which targeted 2,024 suspects, up 42.6 percent, according to the report.

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Of the suspects, 71.5 percent were men -- 913 of them biological fathers and 302 stepfathers or adoptive fathers. Among female suspects, 550 were biological mothers, and 10 were stepmothers or adoptive mothers, it showed.

Of the 1,991 child abuse victims, 1,654 were subjected to physical abuse, followed by 248 who were sexually abused, 53 who were verbally and psychologically abused and 36 who were neglected.

Of the 54 child abuse deaths were 21 children who were forced to join family suicides, 11 who were assaulted to death, eight who died immediately after birth, six who were murdered, six who were fatally neglected, and two who died as a result of serious negligence.

To counter child abuse, the NPA has been dispatching police officials and retired officials to child welfare centers to help them with their work and has been holding joint training with the centers.