Palestine: UN imputes alarming infant mortality rise in Gaza to blockade
The UN agency for Palestinian refugees in Gaza (UNRWA) rang the alarm over the weekend as its new study on the 2013 infant mortality rate in Gaza showed a surge in the number of death of babies under the age of one for the first time in more than half a century.
The UN agency’s health program director Akihiro Seita indicated that the blockade imposed on Gaza by Israel and Egypt could possibly be behind the surge in the number of deaths.
“We are very concerned about the impact of the long-term blockade — on health facilities, supplies of medicines and bringing equipment in to Gaza,” Seita said.
“It is hard to know the exact causes behind the increase in both neonatal and infant mortality rates, but I fear it is part of a wider trend,” continued Seita.
The UNRWA’s weekend statement indicated that 2013 report of infant mortality in Gaza was the worst since 1960, with 22.4 per 1,000 live births.
“The number of babies dying before the age of one has consistently gone down over the last decades in Gaza, from 127 per 1,000 live births in 1960 to 20.2 in 2008. At the last count, in 2013, it had risen to 22.4 per 1,000 live births,” UNRWA said in the statement.
The UNRWA said the release of its 2013 report was delayed because its alarming findings required cross examination.
“When the 2013 results from Gaza were first uncovered, UNRWA was alarmed by the apparent increase. So we worked with external independent research groups to examine the data, to ensure the increase could be confirmed,” Seita said.
“That is why it took us so long to release these latest figures.”
Last week, UN chief Ban Ki-moon called for swift actions to raise $100 million as supplementary fund to meet the needs of Palestinian refugees.