© UNICEF oPt/2009/El Baba
Health and Nutrition
While infant and child mortality rates have stagnated since 2000, other long-term indicators such as stunting rates, reflecting chronic malnutrition, now affect 10 per cent of children, up from 7.6 per cent a decade ago. Households have become significantly and rapidly poorer in recent years, and food insecurity is on the rise, affecting more than half of households in Gaza and a quarter in the West Bank.
More than 50 per cent of children under age five across oPt are anemic and many suffer from vitamin A deficiencies, seriously undermining their intellectual and educational achievement and physical development. Around 70 per cent of all infant deaths are due to prematurity, congenital malformation and pneumonia.
The risk of disease outbreak and epidemics is relatively low given the already high national immunisation rates, above 97 per cent, for all vaccine preventable diseases. However, military operations, access and movement restrictions and recurrent power outages pose a major threat to child health service delivery. The challenge ahead is to maintain immunization rates, reach isolated communities in restricted areas, and sustain an active disease surveillance system to control potential outbreaks.
UNICEF aims to expand provision of quality health and nutrition care to children and mothers, focusing on the populations in greatest need. The programme will also equip adolescents with skills on healthy lifestyles. UNICEF will do this by:
- Facilitating procurement of vaccines and supplies for routine and supplementary immunization;
- Providing neonatal and obstetric equipment and supplies to health facilities;
- Scaling up use of the Mother and Child Health Handbook growth monitoring tool;
- Strengthening capacities of health workers on infant and child care;
- Improving disease and nutrition surveillance systems;
- Supporting behaviour change communication on nutrition and home care practices; and
- Equipping young people with skills and knowledge for HIV & AIDS prevention.