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From Physicians for Human Rights-Israel. Note that transplanted corneas must be harvested at great expense from deceased people.

Israel prevented 17 sight-impaired Gazans from leaving for cornea transplant operations on time; a donation of dozens of corneas went down the drain

The Israeli authorities at Erez checkpoint this week prevented the exit of 17 sight-impaired patients, suffering from various eye diseases, from the Gaza Strip in order to undergo cornea transplants, a treatment that is not available in the Gaza health system. Because of this delay, the medical window of opportunity to perform the transplants for these patients was closed, because corneas can be transplanted only within the shortest time frame (24-48 hours after they are extracted from the donor’s body).

The patients from Gaza whose exit was prevented will therefore have to wait for another donation, which may or may not happen. At the beginning of the week Physicians for Human Rights – Israel (PHR-Israel) received an appeal from the Musallam Medical Center in Gaza. According to the appeal, a large group of 14 patients from Gaza, who were invited to Ramallah for cornea transplants from Sunday to Wednesday this week (January 3-5, 2010), did not reach their destination. Three other patients approached PHR-Israel separately. The group of patients includes some who were waiting weeks or even months for cornea transplants. The longest wait was 31-year-old S.A., who has been waiting for this operation for three years.

The main Musallam Medical Center in Ramallah this week received two deliveries from the US with dozens of corneas, donated by Tissue Bank International, an American organization that facilitates cornea and tissue transplants. Every year corneas are sent during Christmas break, during which such operations do not take place in the US, as a donation to the Palestinian health system, and dedicated especially to eye patients from Gaza.

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Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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