Palestine’s only eye hospital appeals for help

Photo: (St John’s Eye Hospital/Facebook)
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Updated 19 May 2020

Palestine’s only eye hospital appeals for help

  • Lockdown and coronavirus sees patients lose out on treatment

AMMAN: It was clear that Naimeh, a Palestinian woman, needed emergency surgery when she went to a local branch of St John’s Eye Hospital. She would have lost her sight had she not gone. But not all cases are like hers.

The coronavirus pandemic and ensuing lockdown has limited people’s access to the hospital, with many thousands losing out.

David Dahdal, who is director of development at St John’s, said that 18,000 patients have been unable to go to the hospital.

“1,200 operations that would normally have been conducted by the medical institution’s specialized surgeons had to be canceled,” he told Arab News. “As a result of this sudden loss of patients and operations our losses have reached $1.5 million in the first half of this year.”

He warned that by the end of the year, if the lockdown continued, the hospital’s losses could reach $3.9 million. “We are hoping to raise $2 to $3 million to help take care of the backlog of debt and cover the new demand that we expect will happen once the road is open and regular patients can come.”

St. John’s is registered as a not-for-profit charity and 55 percent of its operational budget comes from external funds. The remaining amount is covered by UNRWA and the Palestinian Ministry of Health, which normally refers patients with eyesight needs to the hospital.

Dahdal said that the ministry had given priority to coronavirus cases and emergencies. Eye operations are considered non-essential and the ministry has stopped funding patient cases connected to eye diseases.

St. John’s has launched a global appeal for support to keep its doors open as it expects a big inflow of patients once the lockdown eases.

Dahdal said that the World Health Organization had agreed to support the appeal and that it would be publicly calling on donors to support it too.

Ahmad Budeiri, the coordinator of the Jerusalem Alliance to Deal with the Coronavirus, said that the hospital was important and needed support.

“We are aware that the lockdown and the focus on coronavirus have caused specialized hospitals like St. John’s to lose their regular patients,” he told Arab News. “We encourage those who can to support this important charitable hospital. The pressures on hospitals that treat coronavirus patients are huge, but we do need the whole medical system not to fail. We do believe the eye hospital should be supported because the coronavirus pandemic taught a big lesson that our medical system needs a very big push and support. One virus exposed all the failures of the years.”

Ahmad Rwaidy is the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)’s representative in Palestine. He said that the OIC’s Solidarity Fund had voted in January to support St. John’s.

“This is a specialized hospital that provides badly needed medical support to Palestinians throughout Palestine and we are pleased to be able to help this hospital,” Rwaidy told Arab News. Around $100,000 would be delivered in June, he added as he called on OIC member states to help St John’s and make direct contributions.

King Hussein and Queen Noor of Jordan were among the earliest patrons of St John’s. The Queen Noor Foundation has been active in circulating the appeal to potential Arab donors and has already received positive results.

Last month a medical official, Dr. Walid Nammour, told Arab News that Jerusalem’s hospitals would need at least $7 million in order to meet the expected emergency caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

Nammour, who is the secretary of the East Jerusalem Hospital Network, said that Palestinian hospitals had been experiencing financial difficulties even before the COVID-19 global health emergency.


18 killed in clashes in northwestern Syria

A heavily damaged building following Russian airstrikes and shelling on the town of Binnish in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province on Monday. Three members of the same family were killed in the strike. (AFP)
Updated 54 min 38 sec ago

18 killed in clashes in northwestern Syria

  • Russian airstrikes on the town of Binnish in Idlib province killed three people from the same family on Monday, according to the Observatory. An AFP photographer saw plumes of smoke rising from the site of the attack

BEIRUT, JERUSALEM: Clashes between opposition groups and pro-Assad fighters in northwestern Syria on Monday thwarted regime’s advance and left 12 pro-regime men dead, a Britain-based war monitoring group said.
Another 17 pro-regime fighters were wounded while on the opposition-led side six fighters died, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The forces loyal to Bashar Assad had launched an attack with artillery and heavy gunfire in Syria’s last major opposition bastion, said the war monitor.
But the Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) alliance, headed by ex-leaders of Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate, and their allies reportedly thwarted the advance.
Four HTS and two other opposition fighters were killed in the clashes in a rural area of Latakia province, the monitor said.
The HTS-led alliance also controls large areas of Idlib province and slivers of territory in neighboring Aleppo and Hama.
The region they hold is home to some 3 million people, nearly half of whom have been displaced from other parts of the country.
Syria’s 9-year-old war has killed more than 380,000 people and displaced nearly half of the country’s pre-war population.
The opposition-held area is a regular target of attacks by regime forces and their Russian and Iranian allies.
A Russian-backed regime offensive between December and March displaced nearly a million people in the region.
A Moscow-backed cease-fire agreement in March has reduced violence in the area, but shelling and airstrikes by the regime and its backers continue.
Russian airstrikes on the town of Binnish in Idlib province killed three people from the same family on Monday, according to the Observatory. An AFP photographer saw plumes of smoke rising from the site of the attack.

Golan Heights Activity
The Israeli military said it thwarted an infiltration attempt from Syria early on Monday staged by four suspected militants it accused of trying to plant explosives.
Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, a military spokesman, said Israeli troops earlier spotted “irregular” activity in the Golan Heights. Israeli troops opened fire on the suspected militants, some of whom were armed, after observing them placing the explosives on the ground, Conricus said.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Forces loyal to Bashar Assad had launched an attack with artillery and heavy gunfire in Syria’s last major opposition bastion.

• The opposition-held area is a regular target of attacks by regime forces and their Russian and Iranian allies.

There was no official confirmation that the four suspected attackers were killed but a grainy video released by the army shows four figures walking away from barbed wire marking the frontier. The four then disappear in a large explosion that engulfs the area.
The Israeli military has not said if the four are suspected of ties to Iran or Hezbollah, two Syrian allies. However, Conricus said Israel held the Syrian regime responsible for the incident.
Addressing Likud party lawmakers, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday that Israel “thwarted an attempted sabotage on the Syrian front” and would continue to “harm all those who try to harm us and all those who harm us.”
The incident comes amid heightened tension on Israel’s northern frontier following a recent Israeli airstrike that killed a Hezbollah fighter in Syria. Following the airstrike, the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights was hit by explosives fired from Syria and Israel responded by attacking Syrian military positions and beefing up its forces in the area.
Israel has been bracing for further retaliation and last week it said it thwarted an infiltration attempt from Lebanon by Hezbollah militants, setting off one of the heaviest exchanges of fire along the volatile Israel-Lebanon frontier since a 2006 war between the bitter enemies.