The infant mortality rate in Gaza has risen for the first time in more than half a century, a new study by UNRWA, the UN aid agency for “Palestinian refugees”, said Sunday, according to AFP.
"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," said a statement from the organization.
"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 Gaza-specific survey this year.
The agency 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 naval blockade 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, according to AFP.
"We are very concerned about the impact of the long-term blockade; on health facilities, supplies of medicines and bringing equipment in to Gaza," said Seita.
Gaza’s Hamas terrorist rulers continuously claim that Israel is imposing a “siege” on Gaza, despite the fact that Israel continues to transfer humanitarian aid, goods and construction materials into the region. Israel has continued to do so as terrorists from the region fire rockets at southern Israel.
In April, it sent 14,000 tons of construction material into the Hamas-run enclave, days after reports surfaced that the group was actively rebuilding terror tunnels into the Gaza Belt region. The shipment was the single largest since the end of Operation Protective Edge in Gaza last August.
Furthermore, a Qatari official recently revealed that Israel is freely allowing Qatar to send materials to Hamas through the border crossings, despite the obvious security risks and Qatar's open sheltering of Hamas leaders.