The people of Palestine have a rate of blindness ten times higher than in Western societies, particularly affecting children and the elderly. Although 80% of this blindness is preventable, the near completion of the Separation Wall and tight restrictions on movement are leaving many of the poorest Palestinian communities without access to medical care. Most cannot move freely to see family or friends. The St John Mobile Outreach Clinic enables us to continue to take essential eye care to isolated communities in the West Bank.
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Registered Charity in England and Wales (1080185)
The Outreach Mobile Clinics The Eye Hospital currently runs two mobile Outreach Clinics; the second financed entirely with the help of a European Union ECHO award. The first Clinic was set up in 1982 in response to difficulties experienced by patients living in remote areas of the West Bank, who could not reach the hospital in Jerusalem. In recent times, problems in the area have increased rather than decreased, and the unstable situation has made Outreach even more of a lifeline. The two teams treat patients on the spot in clinics held in 250 venues throughout the West Bank, arranging for serious patients to be referred to our Jerusalem Hospital. Teams co-ordinate the permits needed for safe travel out of the West Bank: a rare occurrence, which highlights our good relationship with Israel. The programme is constantly renewed in order to reach those most in need. Unfortunately, everywhere has become a priority since closure has been enforced on all major towns and cities in the West Bank for the past 5 years. Beneficiaries The ‚ÄúCatchment Population‚Äù of this project is potentially 2.5m people ‚Äì or the entire population of the West Bank. Last year St John‚Äôs two mobile teams treated 9,763 patients, arranging 255 clinics. As always, it is the case that our very young and very old patients benefit most ‚Äì these are the patients for whom travel is most difficult, and often impossible. Doctors and nurses on the Outreach teams saw a total of 2,950 children in 2009. Local Need The Palestinian rate of blindness is so high because of the very particular patterns of disease and demographics in the communities we serve. Consanguinity, or interfamily marriages - a major cause of blinding eye disease in children, is prevalent as a cultural norm. Almost a third of the Palestinian population is under 10 years old, and the care of children is a most important aspect of our work. Further, a study carried out by Johns Hopkins University (USA) and Al-Quds University (in Jerusalem) for CARE International in 2002 revealed very high levels of dietary deficiency among Palestinians. The study found that 17.5% of children aged 6‚Äì59 months suffered from chronic malnutrition. 53% of women of reproductive age and 44% of children were found to be anemic. In adults, an alarming incidence of diabetes (again ten times that of the West) causes tremendous eye problems ‚Äì which are worsened because the healthcare system in the Holy Land continues to face severe challenges and qualified staff are scarce, meaning that diabetes is often detected late and controlled poorly. Cost is an important consideration. The only alternative to the Outreach clinics are private ophthalmic clinics, usually beyond the reach of our patients, who are among the most deprived in the population at large. There are no other mobile ophthalmic clinics in Palestine at present. The Outreach project is more necessary now than at any other time since it began over 20 years ago.
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