Contact Us: 202-510-9691

Living with an eye condition in the West Bank

Access issues: Swift and regular treatment for eye conditions is vital if treatment is to be successful. Accessing medical care in the oPt is a complicated process as patients have to navigate numerous movement restrictions. Main obstacles include;

  • The Separation Wall, which cuts into the West Bank
  • Hundreds of fixed and flying checkpoints 
  • The permit system
  • Across the West Bank, 12% have limited access to essential health care, and 22% have no access to emergency care, according to the United Nations Information System on the Question of Palestine.

If Palestinians have West Bank residency, they have to apply for a permit to enter Jerusalem. A report by the World Health Organization found that one in five patients (and their companions) from the West Bank who applied for permits to enter Jerusalem to access hospitals were denied. Those requiring healthcare, including the young and elderly, who require family members to accompany them, often have to negotiate all of these factors just to receive a diagnosis. Even if they obtain a permit they may still be denied entry on the day, discouraging many from trying to reach medical care.

Poverty levels: The oPt's physical and economic isolation, the frequent outbreaks of conflict and loss of land have led to high levels of poverty. Nearly 20% of the population live below the poverty line and unemployment rates are high, with one in six people unable to find work. With high levels of poverty and unemployment, many patients do not seek out medical care, knowing they could not afford treatment if they did.

Eye conditions: In 2008, SJEHG undertook a study which found that the rate of blindness in the oPt was 10 times higher than in the West. This is because of the region's access issues, poverty rates and high levels of genetic eye diseases. Living in isolated areas leads to a rise in intrafamilial marriage, which in turn leads to increased levels of genetic eye diseases. The economic burden of sight loss is significant. It has been shown that blindness causes poverty and that restoring sight improves the economic status of individuals and their whole families. With no universal health care system in the oPt, many Palestinians only have the option to seek charitable health care or go without. 

Hebron Hospital

In 2005, in response to growing movement restrictions and the high rates of eye problems in the West Bank, SJEHG set up its hospital in Hebron. The hospital provides sight-saving treatments such as cataract and laser eye surgery to treat diabetic retinopathy, and serves the 640,000 people who live in and around Hebron, including the semi-nomadic Bedouins of the Negev Desert.

In November 2015 SJEHG moved into a new Hebron Hospital, which is larger and in a more central location within the city. This will improve the accessibility of our services for individuals and will increase the number of people we help, while ensuring the long term sustainability of our operations in the region. We will be able to treat 20% more outpatients and perform 10% more major operations.

In 2015, SJEHG saw 11,000 outpatients and performed 340 major surgeries in Hebron.