Queen pays emotional tribute to Commonwealth health workers in ‘very special’ video

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Speaking in a video call with five other participants, including Sophie, Countess of Wessex, the Queen heard of the work specialists are doing to improve sight in Commonwealth nations around the world. The Countess introduced the monarch to the call, adding her participation was “very, very special”.

On the line was Peter Holland, Chief Executive of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness.

He said: “There are over a billion people worldwide who have sight loss because they don’t have access to the eye care they need.”

Also taking part was Natrajan Vengadesen, Quality Manager at the Aravind Eye Hospital, which has centres across India.

He pointed to a “huge demand in eye care”, adding his role is to ensure procedures are safe.

The Queen remarked: “I was just thinking of the numbers of people in India. It must be a very big job.”

From Australia, Jennifer Merryweather, Senior Policy Advisor at the Fred Hollows group to eliminate avoidable blindness, spoke of administering eye care in remote regions of the country.

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She prompted the Queen to recall one instance in which she visited Darwin in northern Australia, adding: “you might remember how remote it is!”

The Queen laughed and confirmed she did remember the visit, which took place decades ago in 1963.

The monarch added: “With the distances, some of the healthcare for eyes must be very difficult.”

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Dr Jalikatu Mustapha, an Ophthalmologist in Sierra Leone, added eye surgery can grant people “their agency, their dignity”.

She added: “It’s what makes our work worthwhile every single time.”

The Queen responded by praising all of the participants in the call for the work they carry out.

She said: “I must say, I am very impressed by all the work that is going on. Well done!”

Twitter users praised the call, with one writing: “Queen Elizabeth certainly appears to be wonderfully alert, engaged, and youthful [at] 94 years old!”

Another said: “The work that Countess Sophie does the visually impaired is truly amazing.”

Introducing the call, the Countess of Wessex said she had spoken with the Queen on the issue of eye care before.

Indeed, the Countess is a patron of Vision 2020: The Right to Sight, and is also Global Ambassador for the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB).

According to the Royal Family website, she visited Qatar in 2013 in order to “highlight global issues around preventable childhood blindness and the need for funding eye health programmes.”

Conversations between the IAPB and the State of Qatar resulted in the Qatar Changing Vision initiative.

In addition, the Qatar Development Fund also pledged $8,000,000 (£6,130,000) of funding towards the initiative during another visit by the countess two years later.

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