10GA banners displayed at the RANZCO Congress — thanks to Gerhard Schlenther, RANZCO
Her Excellency President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf / Photo credit: Chatham House
Ellen Sirleaf has been the President of Liberia since 2006 and is Africa’s first democratically elected female Head of State. She was jointly awarded the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.
Together with L V Prasad Eye Institute (LVPEI) she has also launched an initiative for to provide comprehensive eye care services to Liberians, through the John F Kennedy Memorial Medical Centre, Liberia.
The President is also Goodwill Ambassador for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) in Africa.
Her entry into politics began in 1972 when she delivered her famous commencement address at graduation convocation of her alma mater (College of West Africa). In 1975 she joined the then Treasury Department in Liberia, rising to the position of Minister of Finance in 1979 where she introduced measures to curb the mismanagement of government finances.
She was a founding member of the International Institute for Women in Political Leadership; was designated in 1999 by the Organization of African Unity (OAU) (now African Union) to serve on the committee to investigate the Rwanda genocide; was a Commission Chair for the Inter-Congolese Dialogue; and was selected by UNIFEM as one of two persons to investigate and report on the effect of conflict on women and women’s roles in peace-building.
Dr. Maria Hagan is the Country Representative, Orbis Africa and a Member of the Board of Trustees of Ghana Eye Foundation (a local NGO). Her areas of interest are Child eye health and primary eye health delivery within primary health care.
What did you take back from IAPB’s 9th General Assembly (9GA) in 2012 – did you find the experience useful?
I found 9GA very interesting and useful. Blindness prevention activities are about human rights, social equity–and they are strongly linked to public health. The 9GA was a meeting point for all stakeholders in public eye health. The stakeholders included not only eye health providers like ophthalmologists, optometrists and other allied eye health workers, but also corporates, managers, technologists, NGDOs, WHO and other UN Agencies, pharmaceutical companies and manufacturers of instruments and equipment for eye care as well as social workers and other development partners. Researchers shared their research findings with participants.
Partnerships between eye health and non-eye health workers in eye health delivery are important to achieve the greatest impact in prevention of blindness and universal eye health, and the GA provided a platform to make that happen.
The 10th General Assembly (10GA) will be in Durban, South Africa in 2016. What kind of topics/subjects in public health/community ophthalmology do you expect to find there?
At the 10GA in Durban South Africa, I would expect topics/subjects like (i) human resource for eye health –what are we doing to improve the situation; (ii) eye health data collection and reporting – improving eye health data collection and reporting. (iii) Reports on best practice regarding Universal eye health; (iv) affordable technology for eye health and (v) primary eye health integration into primary health care.
IAPB’s General Assembly is coming back to Africa after 25 years. What can African professionals expect to find, based on your experience at 9GA?
Since the last 25 years when the General Assembly was held in Nairobi in Africa, Africa has seen some moderate improvements, generally, in respect of numbers of the human resource for eye health and also an increase in the coverage of service delivery in some countries. But Africa still has a very long way to go. The professionals should expect to learn about recent advances in improving eye health delivery; best practices in working with ALL stakeholders to ensure that quality eye health is delivered to all our peoples in Africa. This should give meaning to ‘STRONGER TOGETHER’, the theme for the 10GA.