Mercia is currently the programme manager for eye care projects in the Nampula region in northeastern Mozambique. The area has a population of about six million people, many of whom live in rural areas that are hard to reach by road.
In these areas, it can be challenging for residents to get help for eye problems. Yet these remote communities are home to almost 70 per cent of the people who need treatment for trachoma.
When Mercia first started working in Nampula, trachoma was a big problem. “There were no operations being provided to treat people with advanced trachoma – fewer than 10 patients had surgery each year,” she says. But thanks to The Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee Trust’s Trachoma Initiative, the situation has changed dramatically.
“The prevalence of trachoma has fallen in three districts, and more than 1,500 people have been treated,” she explains. “It makes me really proud to know that we have worked hard and have reached many patients that would have not been treated through the normal eye health system.
“Eliminating trachoma is essential: if it’s not treated in time, the disease can cause irreversible blindness. This causes patients in the community to become isolated, leading them into a cycle of poverty. Eliminating trachoma will ultimately improve people’s quality of life. The programme has change the way community members think about eye care and has made sure more people seek help for eye issues.
“My favourite part of my work is seeing patients’ joy following sight-saving surgery when they have their bandages removed.”