Improving Vision and Well-Being in Palestine

In the State of Palestine, lack of eye care, often attributed to poverty and restricted access to health services, has caused undue personal and financial hardship. Lions see the hurt this causes their communities and with support from LCIF’s SightFirst program, they are changing that reality.

Determined to improve community health and well-being, Lions are using a US$426,655 SightFirst LCIF grant and collaborating with St. John’s Eye Hospital Group (SJEHG), the primary patient referral center for the Palestinian Ministry of Health, and the only referral for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.

SJEHG examines and treats 128,000 people annually, while also performing more than 5,000 major surgeries. Sadly, need outpaces demand, and SJEHG’s main hospitals in East Jerusalem, Hebron, Anabta, and Gaza have been unable to manage patient volume. Equally as unsettling, advanced equipment critical to performing complex operations is lacking.

Together with SJEHG, and as stewards of LCIF funding, Lions have begun a two-year project to increase service capacity as well as procure medical equipment to enhance the hospitals’ vitreoretinal, retinal laser, and other retinal services. As they oversee the project, Lions are also working to increase project visibility in their communities and organizing fundraising events. Additionally, Lions who are medical professionals are providing technical advice.

In year one, the project enabled nearly 11,000 additional patients to receive life-altering care, exceeding the estimated number by more than 4,000. To keep providing vital eye care to patients during COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, the hospitals implemented preventative and protective measures. In addition, the hospitals prioritized retinal patients, as they are at the most risk to have irreversible vision deterioration if not treated in time.

A woman with a white head scarf speaks
Khawla, who was helped by Lions.

Meet Khawla
“I don’t want to think of what could have happened,” said Khawla, a 66-year-old widow in Beit Sahour, Palestine. Diagnosed with retinal detachment, Khawla was in need of emergency surgery, which she received at SJEHG. “This Lions project saved my sight, and in many ways, my life.”




A woman with an eye patch and mask
Naima nearly lost her sight, but was helped by SJEHG.

Meet Naima
With severe diabetic retinopathy and in danger of losing her eyesight, 54-year-old Naima, in Bethlehem, was terrified about her future and ability to care for her 10 children…until she received life-changing surgery at SJEHG. “I would have become blind by now,” said Naima. “They saved my sight.”