Palestinians have lived through many wars in their richly historical and spiritual land, and because of this, many have had to flee or are living in impossible conditions. While there’s still a long way to go to achieve peace in the region, there’s a lot can be done to improve the lives of the people.
A brief introduction to the Palestine
The tragic conflict over land in Gaza and The West Bank has continued since the 1967 'Six Day War'. While there have been periods of ceasefire, there’s yet to be a peaceful conclusion.
Many Palestinians can’t access basic health and eye care. Ongoing hostilities prevent the provision and development of a system of public services, including health services. This makes the Palestine one of the world’s most difficult environments in which to provide – or access – services of any kind.
What are the eye health problems?
Due to the Palestinian population undergoing rapid health and lifestyle changes, diabetes is becoming an increasing problem, with 12-15% of a population of approximately 4 million affected. This is three times higher than in the West and makes it one of the most prevalent non-communicable diseases in the occupied Palestinian territory.
Diabetes leads to diabetic retinopathy, which is the third largest cause of blindness in the West Bank and the second largest cause of severe visual impairment in the general population.
The Foundation’s programs in the Palestine
The Fred Hollows Foundation has been working in the Palestine since 2013. We’re working in partnership with the St John Eye Hospital Group and the United Nations Relief & Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees to reduce preventable eye diseases through the screening, treatment and management of diabetic retinopathy. We’re working in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and among disadvantaged refugee populations in the southern districts of the West Bank.
The project we’re working on is a pilot model of care for diabetic retinopathy and integrating services into general health that has not previously been explored in conflict/emergency settings. It will help answer some key research questions and provide learning on diabetic retinopathy relating to cost-effective screenings and working with at-risk communities. From this project, we’re hoping to develop a long-term model of eye health care in the Palestinian Territories.
We’re making significant progress
Thanks to some great work with our partners, we achieved a lot last year in some of our key strategic areas:
- With our partner St John’s hospital we screened over 16,000 people, including in refugee camps, for diabetic retinopathy, and supported 1,221 procedures to treat the disease