There are more than 550 patients in Gaza who are awaiting a cornea transplant.
The first corneal transplant operation was performed in the Gaza Strip in 2013.
Director-General of hospitals in Gaza’s Ministry of Health, Dr Abd Al-Salam Al-Sabah, says: “We now have staff from the Ministry of Health in Gaza who are qualified to collect corneas from deceased donors who elected to donate their corneas to save patients who need them.”
Palestinian patients pay high costs for corneal transplants and are placed on a waiting list until a suitable donor is found. Often they are forced to seek medical care abroad, at great cost. Travelling abroad also means they have to circumvent Israel’s brutal siege on the Strip which means they have to obtain approvals to exit the enclave.
According to Dr Al-Sabah, there has recently been an awareness campaign in the Palestinian community, recommending the donation of their corneas for the benefit of others. A series of transplant operations have begun, while new medical staff are being trained on how to perform these operations.
Among the internationally specified donor conditions is that donors should not be over 65 years old, have not had operations that may have damaged the cornea, or diseases that cause infection and suffer no other eye problems.
The implants, Al-Sabah says, allow patients to return to their normal lives and be active members of society and the economy.