A report from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) has shown that around half of the Palestinian population is under 18 years old, equating to 2.04 million young people. The total population in the occupied Palestinian territories in 2012 was 4.29 million.
PCBS Director Ola Awad said that the results of the study were announced to mark Palestine's Day of the Child on 5 April. "The report," she added, "includes detailed data about Palestinian children and their lives." Palestinians under the age of 18, noted Ms Awad, will be the backbone of the population for several years to come, based on the present birth and mortality rates.
The infant mortality rate is 18.9 out of every 1,000 live births. The main cause for such death is pre-birth infection. Breastfeeding by Palestinian babies is very common, with 62.8 per cent dependent on their mothers' milk for an average of 13 months. However, 11 per cent of children under five years old also suffer from chronic malnutrition; the percentage is slightly higher in Gaza, at 11.5 per cent, than in the West Bank at 10.4 per cent. Statistics from the Ministry of Health show that 19.4 per cent of Palestinian children under five suffer from anaemia. The rate in Gaza is almost double that in the West Bank, at 25.6 per cent compared with 13.4 per cent. The lack of clean drinking water is one cause of such illnesses amongst children.
The section of the PCBS report covering education shows that 1,129,538 Palestinians in the occupied territories are pupils in school; just over half – 50.2 per cent – are girls. Just over 67 per cent of all schools have science laboratories, with a slightly higher percentage of government schools (71.1 per cent) than those run by UNRWA (59.2 per cent). Fifty-three per cent of private schools have dedicated science facilities. More than 75 per cent of all schools have libraries and around the same figure have computer laboratories.
Around 75 per cent of all students use computers, with 81.9 per cent doing so in the West Bank and 64.4 per cent in the Gaza Strip. There is no significant difference in computer use between males and females.
Four out of ten children have access to the internet; two out of ten have enough knowledge to use the internet but for various reasons, including poverty, they do not have internet access. At least four out of ten children have no knowledge at all about the internet.
The number of Palestinian children aged between 10 and 17 involved in the labour market is low, at just over 4 per cent doing paid or unpaid work. It is higher in the West Bank (5.8 per cent) than in the Gaza Strip (1.5 per cent).
The report also showed that Palestinian children need protection. Around 3 per cent of them were exposed to bodily harm from the Israeli occupation forces and Jewish settlers. Most of these are in the West Bank and occupied Jerusalem where the settlers live.
The average age of marriage among Palestinian youth is 20 for females and 24.6 for males, the report points out. However, their prospects are not good. About 20.7 per cent of Palestinian households are classed as "poor"; most of them have children. The official poverty rate in the Gaza Strip is 32.6 per cent with 14.7 per cent in the West Bank.