Raising funds for cataract surgery

PCRF, the Palestine Childrens’ Fund, has been in the forefront of looking after children in Palestine and the refugeee camps of Lebanon, Syria and Jordan since its inception in 1993 (see www.pcrf.net). It began supporting eye surgery missions to Lebanon in 1998. The missions to Palestine started in 2000 and since then more than 2500 patients have benefitted from 38 surgical missions.

Most of the work involved cataract surgery which requires the removal of a cataract (the clouding of the natural lens in the eye, usually occurring with age) and inserting of an artificial lens into the eye. The cataract is removed either through a large wound, (8-10 mm) extracting the lens as one piece…or broken up into small pieces and softened (emulsified) and removed through a small wound (2 -3 mm) with suction. The smaller wound assists in quicker healing and visual rehabilitation and also reduces the chances of infection.

Phaco-emulsification is the currently favored method of surgery to remove cataracts around the world. However it requires an expensive piece of equipment – a “phaco” machine plus other accessories and a different set of
instruments. It also requires the surgeons to be trained with special skills to use the machine. It has been the standard procedure in Australia and the western world since the 90s. It has also been available in Palestine in the private sector.

This year a phaco machine was donated by PCRF to Rafidia Hospital, the only government-run hospital offering modern cataract surgery to the general public. However the number of patients to benefit from phaco surgery during the last mission in March 2018 was limited to 7 out of a total of 48 patients with cataracts. This was mainly due to only one phaco probe (which is used inside the eye to remove the cataract) being available and this had to be specially sterilized, with the process taking two hours each time. It is clear we need to purchase at least 2 more phaco probes.

AFOPA (Australian Friends of Palestine Association) have been supporting medical and surgical missions since 2004. APPEH have been involved with numerous educational projects in Palestine.

APPEH will help with raising funds to help purchase 2 more phaco probes and will facilitate receipt of donations with its tax deductibility status. If you have had cataract surgery or know someone who has had their sight restored, then let us share that unique joy and experience with the disadvantaged in Palestine. Please donate through APPEH.

The Treatment and Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture (TRC) – update

Since 2014, APPEH and TRC have extended their Doubling partnership to continue improving treatment and resources in Palestine.

In 2017, $A20,000 supported individual and group therapy sessions for 162 Palestinian children, their parents, and families throughout the West Bank. This therapy extends to traumatised women in prisons, most of whom have been victim to forms of domestic abuse, or gender- or politically-based violence.

Three narrative exposure therapy psychologists have also been employed full-time, with a third of the funding coming from APPEH.

Meanwhile APPEH has been involved in continued attempts to expand the Doubling concept – an organisation that has helped to promote other projects in South Africa and Liberia.

The Treatment and Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture (TRC)

Last year APPEH entered into a doubling partnership with TRC in Ramallah in the West Bank to support two therapists working with psychological trauma in the Palestinian population. Towards the end of 2014, TRC reported back to APPEH on their first six months of funding provided under the Doubling Agreement (May 1 – October 31 2014). It had been a busy time; psychological trauma among the Palestinian population has increased due to the constant threat of violence and attacks perpetrated by the Israeli government. Thousands of families had been affected by a campaign of arrests and re-arrests of recently released Palestinian prisoners. Due to the constant media coverage of Israel’s attack on Gaza, psychological trauma is not restricted to those who experienced the violence firsthand, but has spread to the West Bank. In response, TRC deployed specialised psychotherapy and crisis intervention treatments with the 421 clients treated between May and October 2014, 76% of whom were over 18 years of age, 153 were new clients. In all, 1729 therapy sessions were conducted.

APPEH funded two of these therapists, fulltime psychologists (and internationally certified narrative therapy trainers) Wael Dawabsha and Mohamad Absi. Wael conducted 252 sessions with 44 male clients; Mohamad saw 57 clients (43 male, 14 female) in 362 sessions.

TRC launched the first book on narrative therapy in Arabic during the reporting period. The book is currently being distributed by TRC in Arabic; an English version will be published soon. TRC is the only centre in Palestine and one of the few in the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa) to have a team of internationally certified narrative therapy experts who are regularly consulted by other partner centres in Palestine and throughout the region.

And in July 2014, TRC conducted a three-week psychosocial summer camp for direct and indirect child victims of the on-going conflict. Almost 300 victims of trauma, torture, those with family members killed, and children placed under administrative detention participated in sport, arts, theatre and music activities supplemented by group psychotherapy and narrative therapy in three camps in the West Bank.

UNRWA health services

We are pleased to have partnered UNRWA in our work to date. After the textbook project APPEH explored, in March 2013, the possibility of supporting various health-related projects.

Of the projects suggested by Dr Suha Ismail, Deputy Chief of UNWRA’s Field Health Programme in Lebanon, the following fell within the remit of APPEH:

  1. Assistance in implementing an appointment system at primary healthcare centres.
    UNWRA are currently assessing a comprehensive package known as the Family Health Team (FHT) information system. This is done in coordination between IT teams in Lebanon Field Office and Amman. The plan is to roll out the system in all UNRWA health centres in 2015, and will take around 18 months. Phase two, the sustainability of this service, will require software and hardware support.
  1. Assistance in training medical staff in primary healthcare settings in the identification and treatment of mental health issues.
    ‘The ultimate aim is to use a community based multi-disciplinary approach that will help in avoiding the over-medicalisation that usually characterises specialised psychiatric services, as well as help to sensitise the community regarding mental health and raise the awareness of positively addressing mental health issues.’ (Quoted from the project document.)
    This project was launched in difficult times with the influx of Syrian refugees and the resultant increased demand on psychological services. The project needs to recruit another two psychiatrists and two clinical psychologists.

APPEH will stay in touch with Dr Ismail and consider financial support when timely/requested.


APPEH chairperson, Jon Jureidini, heard Prof OmigbodunOlayinka Omigbodun, a Nigerian psychiatrist and president of the International Association for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Allied Professions (IACAPAP) speak at a child psychiatry conference in Melbourne. She discussed the idea of child and adolescent mental health clinics or departments in privileged countries partnering with departments or services in the developing world, and it started Jon thinking. In his keynote address he reiterated Professor Omigbodun’s idea and expanded upon it. What if psychiatrists and other professionals in wealthy countries such as Australia paired with under employed professionals in a developing country? By contributing 5 to 20 per cent of their own salary the well-off professional would provide the full salary for a therapist, for example, in a country where the salary would be a fraction of the cost it would be in Australia. This would mean that for an affordable fraction of the salary for a senior professional in a rich country, a professional can be employed and supported in a poorer country, potentially doubling the productivity from their salary/income.

Just as importantly, this doubling/pairing would begin a partnership between two therapists working in very different circumstances but leading to mutual learning, a potential exchange of materials and expertise.

Partnerships might also be set up between departments rather than individuals. An academic or clinical group in each country could set up a relationship analogous to sister cities, whereby each takes interest in the activity of the other. Each would promote and publicise the other’s activities, with the richer sister also providing financial and other support.

As a tax-deductible charity that already supports Palestinian workers in the Middle East, APPEH can play a pivotal role. The APPEH board committed to supporting a pilot doubling between Jon Jureidini and a suitable therapist working in Palestine (or with Palestinians elsewhere in the region). This resulted in support for the Treatment and Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture (TRC) in Ramallah (see here).

The Doubling Project has been unsuccessful in securing a sponsor site to act as a host, after contacting and beginning conversations with both the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, and the International Association for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Allied Professions. Other options are now being explored.


Sad news from Lebanon

Samar Habib began a two-year term in Lebanon as the Australian Volunteers International (AVI) volunteer to UNRWA in September 2012, with APPEH as partner agency. She has been supporting us to reach our educational goals (see Project 5).  In late January 2014, Alison Ford, Australian Partnerships Coordinator
 for AVI, informed the APPEH board that Samar had been moved out of UNRWA Lebanon and relocated to Jordan.

Continue Reading…

TRC: Hard Times To Sustain Services

The Treatment and Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture (TRC) is a non-governmental, not–for-profit and independent organization that mainly works in the field of providing medical, psychiatric and psychosocial services to survivors of politically motivated torture and organized violence in the Palestinian territory, in addition to activities related to fostering Human Rights through Training, Advocacy and Research. It is considered a human rights organization with focus on mental health issues especially for those suffering from the ongoing conflict in the area. Continue Reading…

Fallacy of the Middle Ground and Why We Should Risk Being Wrong

Professor Jon Jureidini is a child psychiatrist trained in philosophy. He is the Head of the Department of Psychological Medicine at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Adelaide, and a Senior Research Fellow at the Department of Philosophy at Flinders University in South Australia.

In this talk Professor Jureidini puts a philosophical case for making tough decisions and not walking the middle ground.