The number of deaths occurring each week is noticeably high based on the number of funerals held each week. Minister of Health and Human Services Gaafar Uherbelau confirmed this assessment, saying that for the first time, Palau will see a higher number of deaths in a year than births.
Every year since 1995, the number of births has been declining while the number of deaths has been steadily rising. For example, in 1995, there were 399 live births and 110 deaths. In 2010, the number of births dropped to 247, and the number of deaths rose to 168. In 2019, before COVID, there were 212 live births and 203 deaths in that year. In the last year 2021, the number of live births was 224, while the number of deaths was 170.
Now it is projected that the number of deaths, for the first time in 27 years, will be higher than the number of births; in other words, a declining population.
The number of people dying yearly has also been growing for the past 27 years. In 1995, the total number of deaths was 110. In 2019, it was 203. Last year, it was 170.
Most of the deaths are NCD (Non-communicable disease) related, resulting from chronic illnesses such as diabetes.
Minister of Health Gaafar Uherbelau said that COVID-19 is responsible for the increase in the number of deaths this year. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2020 and 2021, the Ministry of Health’s resources were re-directed to address COVID, taking away from other critical services such as NCD-related chronic diseases. Limited access to doctors by many with chronic illnesses impacts the health of those afflicted with NCD-related illnesses. Now, many of them are dying as a result of that limited access to important healthcare services.
In addition to a high number of deaths and low birth numbers, the outmigration of Palauans, especially those of child-bearing ages, has a marked impact on Palau’s population.
In 2020, out of 17,614 total population, 11,692 were Palauans. With more Palauans leaving the island this year, we can expect the 11,692 Palauan population has further declined as seen by increased outmigration.