Gaza in­fant mor­tal­ity rises for 1st time in 53 years: UN

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

The in­fant mor­tal­ity rate in Gaza has risen for the first time in more than half a cen­tury, a new study by the U.N. aid agency for Pales­tinian refugees says.

“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,” a state­ment from the United Na­tions Re­lief and Works Agency (UNRWA) re­leased at the week­end said.

“Ev­ery five years UNRWA con­ducts a sur­vey of in­fant mor­tal­ity across the re­gion, and the 2013 re­sults were re­leased this week,” it said, adding that be­cause of the data it would con­duct a new Gaza­spe­cific sur­vey this year.

It said that neona­tal mor­tal­ity in Gaza, the num­ber of ba­bies who die be­fore four weeks old, rose from 12 per 1,000 live births in 2008 to 20.3 in 2013.

The state­ment quoted Ak­i­hiro Seita, di­rec­tor of the agency’s health pro­gram, as say­ing that the sud­den up­swing was un­prece­dented in the Mid­dle East.

“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,” he said.

“That is why it took us so long to re­lease these latest fig­ures.”

He sug­gested that Is­rael’s block- ade of the coastal strip, where close to 45 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion is un­der 14 years old, could be a con­tribut­ing fac­tor.

“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,” he said.

“We are very con­cerned about the im­pact of the long-term block­ade; on health fa­cil­i­ties, sup­plies of medicines and bring­ing equip­ment in to Gaza.”

Is­rael im­posed its block­ade on the Gaza Strip in 2006 af­ter the Is­lamist mil­i­tant group Ha­mas cap­tured an Is­raeli soldier. It fur­ther tight­ened con­trols a year later when Ha­mas con­sol­i­dated its rule there.

A 50-day war be­tween Is­rael and Ha­mas in July-Au­gust 2014 killed about 2,200 Pales­tini­ans and 73 on the Is­raeli side, and de­stroyed or dam­aged tens of thou­sands of homes in the im­pov­er­ished coastal ter­ri­tory.

Among the Gaza dead were more than 500 chil­dren.

AP

An in­jured Pales­tinian boy waits to re­ceive treat­ment for his in­juries at the Na­j­jar hos­pi­tal in Rafah, south­ern Gaza Strip, Thurs­day, Aug. 6.

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