According to a new study by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, UNRWA, infant mortality, which in most parts of the world is in decreasing, has not declined for the last decade in Gaza. The paper entitled “Stalled decline in infant mortality among Palestine refugees in the Gaza Strip since 2006” was published today in the Plos One journal.
According to the Director of UNRWA’s Health Department, Dr Akihiro Seita, “this is an extraordinary warning sign, an alarming trend in the overall situation not only of health for infants but also the health of entire Palestine refugee population in Gaza. Moreover, it is a warning sign on the overall social and economic situation of Gaza, as the Palestine refugees account for more than seventy per cent of the entire populations in Gaza. Infant mortality is a barometer of the health of an entire population”.
The new study found that the infant mortality rate among Palestine refugees in Gaza was 22.7 per 1000 live births. This is within the same range of the previously reported rate of 22.4 per 1000 live births in 2015 and 20.2 per 1000 live births from the study conducted in 2006.
“This finding needs our attention since the ultimate goal is to maintain a continuing decline of infant mortality and to stop preventable infant deaths. Gaza was not able to meet the Millennium Development Goal Four for a reduction of under-five child mortality by two thirds. Efforts should be made to achieve the new Sustainable Development Goal target of a neonatal mortality rate of below 12 per 1000 live births in 2030”, said Dr Seita.
In Gaza, the socioeconomic situation has deteriorated dramatically in the past decade following the imposition of the blockade and subsequent conflicts. The blockade has affected the health sector in Gaza, as hospitals continue to lack adequate physical infrastructure, drugs, supplies, and infection prevention material. It is reasonable to assume that the unstable power supply, the deteriorating functionality of medical equipment, the periodic shortages of essential drugs and medical consumables have had an impact on the quality of medical care with a consequent impact on infant mortality.