Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Low infant mortality among Palestine refugees despite the odds

Flavia Riccardo, Ali Khader & Guido Sabatinelli


To present data from a 2008 infant mortality survey conducted in Jordan, Lebanon, the Syrian Arab Republic, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and analyse infant mortality trends among Palestine refugees in 1995–2005.


Following the preceding birth technique, mothers who were registering a new birth were asked if the preceding child was alive or dead, the day the child was born and the date of birth of the neonate whose birth was being registered. From this information, neonatal, infant and early child mortality rates were estimated. The age at death for early child mortality was determined by the mean interval between successive births and the mean age of neonates at registration.


In 2005–2006, infant mortality among Palestine refugees ranged from 28 deaths per 100 000 live births in the Syrian Arab Republic to 19 in Lebanon. Thus, infant mortality in Palestine refugees is among the lowest in the Near East. However, infant mortality has stopped decreasing in recent years, although it remains at a level compatible with the attainment of Millennium Development Goal 4.


Largely owing to the primary health care provided by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestine Refugees in the Near East and other entities, infant mortality among Palestine refugees had consistently decreased. However, it is no longer dropping. Measures to address the most likely reasons – early marriage and childbearing, poor socioeconomic conditions and limited access to good perinatal care – are needed.