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St John Eye Hospital
submitted by This Week In Palestine

2008 Gaza Emergency Appeal

The children of Palestine face many barriers to their future. But we are determined to make sure blindness isn’t one of them.

Blinding eye disease is ten times more likely to occur in Palestine than in developed societies - it especially affects young children and the elderly. Long-term effects are economic as well as humanitarian.

The charitable Eye Hospital is the main provider of ophthalmic care for patients in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza. Up to 80 percent of blindness is preventable, and the need for our services is greater than ever before.

Severe movement restrictions are crippling local health care, and Jerusalem - once the cultural and economic heart of Palestinian life - is now open only for those who hold the correct permit. The Wall continues to sever the geography, and hundreds of checkpoints and roadblocks prevent patients from getting to our hospital.

In response, we revised our strategic focus. We have had to make the hospital “mobile.”

We now deliver our care by operating ambulance units, which reach and penetrate the remotest corners of the West Bank. Medical teams visit isolated refugee camps and bring humanitarian care to villages trapped in no-man’s-land. St John has opened satellite clinics throughout the West Bank and Gaza. It is part of a unique and de-centralised model that counters the political geography. Despite the obstacles faced by our beneficiaries, we are managing year-on-year to treat more patients.

Throughout 2008 we have to do even more. The Eye Hospital’s annual fundraising appeal will focus specifically on Gaza, raising public awareness of our charity’s important emergency relief activities.

There is no other charitable eye care in Gaza. The only alternatives to St John’s Gaza clinic are costly private ophthalmic clinics, hopelessly beyond the reach of our patients, who are among the most deprived in the population at large.

We are one of only very few charities that have managed to sustain - even increase - our humanitarian efforts inside the Strip, trying to keep up with the need. It is vital for the sake of our patients, and also to ensure that some medical infrastructure remains in place, that St John continues to honour our commitment to Gaza.

As has been well documented, Gaza is cut off almost entirely from the outside world. A major humanitarian crisis is escalating daily, and 1.5 million people are isolated inside one of the most heavily populated areas in the world.

Despite the danger and the immense difficulties faced daily by our medical team, the Eye Hospital’s Gaza Clinic has remained open. Last year we treated more patients than ever before and, responding to the emergency, our doctors worked overtime to provide humanitarian cover. In 2007 St John saw more than 17,000 patients in Gaza. St John doctors performed hundreds of sight-saving operations and managed successfully to get 644 patients referred to Jerusalem for tertiary care (complex surgical interventions).

The borders are shut, and our patients - prevented from seeking medical assistance outside - have nowhere else to go. During the first four months of 2008, 5,749 Gazan patients received crucial care from our satellite clinic. Please support St John Eye Hospital’s appeal.

For more information, visit our website: www.stjohneyehospital.org.

The Eye Hospital is a UK-registered charity that operates within Palestine. Our doors are open to all - regardless of race, religion, or ability to pay.

This Week in Palestine
June 2008

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