On October 7, The Fred Hollows Foundation was fortunate enough to bring the news of their work to the Queen, coinciding with World Sight Day (8 October). Their part of the discussion focused on The Foundation’s work among Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, who face enormous barriers to eye health care. The following is a press release with all of the details from the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness:
***Australia Press Release***
***Embargoed 2200hrs GMT+1 Friday 9 th October 2020***
Her Majesty The Queen and HRH The Countess of Wessex mark World Sight Day with a video chat with eye health professionals
To mark World Sight Day on October 8th Her Majesty The Queen and Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex held a call with the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) and three eye health professionals from around the world including Australian Jennifer Merryweather who works for the Indigenous Australia Program at The Fred Hollows Foundation.
The Queen and The Countess spoke with Jennifer alongside Natrajan Vengadesan from Aravind Eye Care System in India, Dr Jalikatu Mustapha who works with UK-based NGO Sightsavers in Sierra Leone and Peter Holland the Chief Executive of IAPB.
Jennifer Merryweather who spoke to The Queen from Australia in the early hours of the morning said “It’s such a privilege for me to work alongside Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders and organisations to advocate for change in our eye health care system. It was an incredible experience to be able to share this work with Her Majesty and Her Royal Highness.
“The Queen mentioned how difficult it must be for people in remote areas to access eye health services. It was great to be able to share some of these barriers with Her Majesty. The barriers Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples face include long distances a lack of public ophthalmology services, and the ‘hidden costs’ involved in accessing surgery.
“It was a very surreal experience, and I was quite nervous! But once we started talking I remembered how much I love what I do and what an incredible opportunity it was to share the work of The Fred Hollows Foundation with Her Majesty and Her Royal Highness.”
Ian Wishart CEO of The Fred Hollows Foundation said “In Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples are three times more likely to be blind than other Australians and Jennifer Merryweather and our Indigenous Australia Program team are working incredibly hard to close that gap. It is wonderful to see Jennifer recognised for her outstanding leadership and she has been instrumental in influencing innovative and
positive change across the Australian eye health and vision care sector.
Commenting on the conversation, Peter Holland Chief Executive of IAPB said “It was a real honour to mark World Sight Day with The Queen and The Countess of Wessex and to join some amazing eye health professionals working to ensure everyone in the world has access to good quality eye health services.
“There are over a billion people globally who experience some form of sight loss and do not have access to treatment. The Covid-19 pandemic has made this situation worse, with many people not being able to access the care they need.
“This year’s theme for World Sight Day is ‘Hope in Sight’. This is important as we need to be optimistic for the future and reflect the hope and opportunity that good eye care can bring to people. Something as simple as glasses or a cataract operation can really change a person’s life. We need good eye health to ensure children are able to benefit from going to school, for people to reach their full potential in their work life and for older people to be able to stay active members of our community.
“We thank Her Majesty and Her Royal Highness this year especially as we come to the end of the successful VISION 2020 programme which The Countess has been the Global Ambassador for and for the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust which did so much to help fund eye health projects all over the Commonwealth in The Queen’s name.”
Notes to Editors:
- The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) is the
overarching alliance for the global eye care sector with 150 members worldwide drawn from NGOs and civil society, corporate organisations, professional bodies and research and eye care institutions.
- Participants on the call
- Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
- HRH The Countess of Wessex, IAPB Global Ambassador
- Peter Holland, Chief Executive, International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB)
- Natrajan Vengadesan, Quality Manager, Aravind Eye Care System (The Countess of Wessex has met Mr Vengadesan previously on her call with IAPB’s Eye Health Heroes on 7 July 2020)
- Jennifer Merryweather, Senior Policy Advisor, Indigenous Australia
- Program, Fred Hollows Foundation
- Dr Jalikatu Mustapha, Ophthalmologist, Programme Manager – National Eye Care Programme, Lecturer, Connaught Hospital Ophthalmology Dept, University of Sierra Leone
- The call took place via video call on Wednesday October 7th to mark World Sight Day on Thursday 8th October.
- VISION 2020: The Right to Sight was launched in 1999 by the World Health Organization and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness. The initiative was set up to Intensify and accelerate prevention of blindness activities so as to achieve the goal of eliminating avoidable blindness by 2020. VISION 2020 Global Initiative has been complemented and built upon by a series of additional WHO action plans.
- The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust was a charitable foundation established in 2012 with a mission to enrich the lives of people of all backgrounds across every Commonwealth country in honour of Her Majesty The Queen’s lifetime of Service to its citizens. The Trust ended in January 2020 after successfully completing its projects in avoidable blindness and empowering young leaders.
For more information please contact:
- Simon Darvill, Communications Consultant, IAPB on firstname.lastname@example.org or ring +44 7590565300
- Esther Au, Communications & PR Manager, The Fred Hollows Foundation on email@example.com or ring +61 423 375 562