UNRWA warns of rising infant mortality in blockaded Gaza

For first time in half-century, besieged and war-battered Gaza Strip sees rise in infant mortality rates, UN agency says

UNRWA warns of rising infant mortality in blockaded Gaza

World Bulletin / News Desk

Infant mortality rates in the Gaza Strip are on the rise for the first time in 50 years, according to a study conducted by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

Over the period from 1960 to 2008, the number of babies who died in the Gaza Strip before reaching the age of one fell from 127 per 1,000 live births to only 20.2, according to the study, a copy of which was obtained by Anadolu Agency.

But between 2008 and 2013 (the year in which the study was carried out), this figure rose to 22.4 per 1,000 live births, representing a “marked increase”, according to UNRWA spokesman Sami Mushasha.

Over the same period, the study also found, the Gaza Strip’s neonatal mortality rate (which tracks the number of babies who die before reaching four weeks old) rose from 12 per 1,000 live births to 20.3.

“Declining infant mortality rates don’t usually reverse themselves,” Dr. Akihiro Seita, director of the UNRWA's health department, is quoted as saying in the study. “This is the first time we have seen an increase like this.”

“It’s hard to pinpoint the exact causes behind the rising infant mortality rates,” Dr. Seita said. “I fear it’s part of a wider trend in the Gaza Strip.”



Since 2007, the Gaza Strip has groaned under a tight Israeli-Egyptian blockade – by air, land and sea – that continues to deprive its roughly 1.9 million inhabitants of their most basic needs, including food and medicine.

The UNRWA continues to express grave concern about the ongoing blockade’s impact on Gaza’s public health sector, including chronic shortages of medical supplies and equipment.

Ashraf al-Qodra, a spokesman for Gaza’s Health Ministry, for his part, warned that the ongoing blockade has had a disastrous impact on public health, especially among children.

According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, children under the age of 14 account for a whopping 45 percent of the strip’s overall population.

Al-Qodra also noted that three devastating Israeli military offensives against Gaza within the last six years (in 2008/09, 2012 and 2014) – coupled with the years-long blockade – had effectively led to the “destruction” of the strip’s health infrastructure.

In the summer of last year, more than 2,160 Palestinians were killed and some 11,000 injured – the vast majority of them civilians – during 51 days of fierce Israeli bombardments of the blockaded coastal enclave.

The offensive also destroyed thousands of homes across the strip, along with vast swathes of vital infrastructure.

According to al-Qodra, as many as 578 Palestinian children aged between one month and 16 years were killed in the onslaught.

“Each day reveals new shocking statistics,” he told Anadolu Agency. “In light of our exceptional circumstances, Gaza’s tragedy multiplies with each passing hour.”

Güncelleme Tarihi: 12 Ağustos 2015, 14:59