WHO presents validation study of UNRWA infant mortality survey among Gaza refugees, September 2016
8 September 2016, Ramallah – WHO and UNRWA jointly convened a meeting of health experts to discuss the findings of the validation study conducted in 2016 for an infant mortality survey of Gaza refugees, carried out by UNRWA in 2015. The corrected data showed an infant mortality rate of 21.3 per 1000 live births, with a neonatal mortality of 14 per 1000 live births. The validation findings indicate similar levels of mortality to those shown by the 2014 Multiple Indicators Survey, with slower or absent improvement, especially related to neonatal mortality.
The meeting brought together representatives from the Ministry Of Health, the Palestinian National Institute of Public Health, UNICEF, UNFPA, UNRWA, academic experts, and representatives from donors and nongovernmental agencies. Dr Gerald Rockenschaub, the WHO Head of Office in the occupied Palestinian territory, highlighted the importance of the information provided by this collaborative work and raised the alert about the risk of losing some important achievements on infant and child health of the last decades, given the deteriorating conditions of health determinants, especially in Gaza. He emphasized the importance of further efforts to be made and resources invested in reducing Palestinian infant and neonatal mortality, particularly in Gaza.
Dr Akihiro Seita, the Director of UNRWA’s Health Programme, presented the historical trend on infant mortality rates among Gaza refugees, as detected by the repeated surveys since 1995. Dr Silvia Pivetta, a WHO paediatric expert, led the validation study and presented the study methods, findings and recommendations. The WHO study, in addition to providing corrected infant and neonatal mortality rates, also examined causes and circumstances of infant deaths: it found that 68% of infant deaths occurred during the neonatal period, and half occurred in the first 24 hours after birth. Most deaths were caused by sepsis, congenital abnormalities and birth asphyxia, with prematurity and low birth weight as main contributing causes. The meeting generated crucial recommendations to guide future actions for addressing these causes and preventing the most avoidable infant and neonatal deaths.