Sightsavers ophthalmologist Dr Jalikatu Mustapha, who recently won an IAPB Eye Health Hero Award, received a video call from Her Majesty the Queen to mark World Sight Day.
Dr Jalikatu joined three other eye health professionals and chief executive of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) Peter Holland to speak to the Queen and Sophie, Countess of Wessex on World Sight Day, which took place on 8 October.
Dr Jalikatu, who is one of only four ophthalmologists in Sierra Leone, said: “I was so excited to have this opportunity to talk about eye health at such an influential level, and explain how important it is and the difference I have seen our treatments make to so many lives. It feels this opportunity could give us real leverage to do more work and help more people.”
She added that it was a “real honour” to meet the Queen and the Countess of Wessex, saying: “I was nervous, but they really put me at ease with a really personal touch. It felt like family history repeating itself when I got the invitation, because my grandfather met Her Majesty in 1961 when she visited Sierra Leone. The photo of them meeting was a centrepiece in our family room all my life, so for me to follow in his footsteps felt extra special.”
Peter Holland added: “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 thank Her Majesty and Her Royal Highness this year especially as we come to the end of the successful VISION 2020 programme, of which the Countess has been the Global Ambassador, and for the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, which did so much to help fund eye health projects all over the Commonwealth.”
Dr Jalikatu was awarded the the ‘Change Makers’ award from the IAPB for her work with partners to improve rates of cataract coverage, reduce the burden of glaucoma, increase available data on national eye health and strengthen health care systems and infrastructure.