West Bank

Living with an eye condition in the West Bank

Access:  Swift and regular treatment for eye conditions is vital if treatment is to be successful. Accessing medical care in the occupied Palestinian territories (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 and 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 (UNISPAL).

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 needing 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 (UNRWA) and unemployment rates are high, with one in six people unable to find work (The World Bank). 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 ten 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 (Kuper, 2008). With no universal health care system in the oPt, for many Palestinians their only option is to seek charitable health care or go without.



Hebron Hospital

In 2005, in response to the 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 that 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 2018, SJEHG saw over 12,700 patients and performed over 410 major operations. 

Anabta Clinic


In 2007, in response to the growing movement restrictions and the high rates of eye conditions in the West Bank, SJEHG set up its clinic in Anabta.

The St John Anabta Clinic treats over 20,000 patients every year, charging subsidised prices for consultations and procedures for all, and completely waiving fees for those who cannot afford to make any contribution. The clinic is easily accessible from the major areas of Nablus, Tulkarem and Jenin and serves the population of the surrounding area, which is approximately one million.

When the clinic had its first full year of service in 2008, it saw nearly 9,000 patients. This number has steadily increased every year, and in 2018 we saw a total of 20,500 patients, including 7,000 children. 

Apart from our charitable care, what sets the clinic apart in the region is the subspecialty care we offer. Specialist doctors from our flagship hospital in Jerusalem travel to Anabta weekly to offer their services. We are the only clinic that can offer this specialist care in the region.