The Fred Hollows Foundation appointed Fatima Alward Al Darmaki, prominent local media figure, as its global ambassador, making her the first person from the Arab Gulf region to work in this international development capacity. The Foundation’s Board of Directors elected Ms. Al Darmaki in an honorary and now begins her three-year term as Ambassador of The Foundation.
The Foundation’s CEO Ian Wishart welcomed Ms. Al Darmaki as an Ambassador and said her efforts would help create a greater understanding about vision loss among Arabic audiences, particularly among Emiratis.
The Fred Hollows Foundation is a leading international development organisation that has restored sight to more than 2.5 million people around the world and has supported programs to deliver more than 100 million doses of antibiotics for trachoma. It continues the work of the late Professor Fred Hollows, a globally-renowned eye surgeon who believed everyone should have access to high-quality affordable eye care, no matter where they live. The Foundation is also a registered member at International Humanitarian City.
Commenting on this important appointment, Wishart said; “Today, our ambassador Ms. Al Darmaki becomes the first Emirati and Gulf person to join our global campaign to end avoidable blindness and vision impairment since The Foundation’s establishment in 1992.”
Commenting on her appointment, Fatima Al Darmaki said: “I am very honoured to be named an ambassador of The Fred Hollows Foundation. Vision loss is a cause close to my heart as both my mother and my late father suffered from vision impairment. My mother suffered from cataract in one of her eyes, which is the leading cause of blindness. Millions of people are blind because they don’t have access to eye care services. Being the first Emirati ambassador puts a great responsibility on my shoulders. Today, I chose to partner with The Foundation to achieve a world where no person is needlessly blind or vision impaired.”
Fatima Al Darmaki was born and raised in Al Ain city, UAE. She graduated from the United Arab Emirates University with a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication in 2007. In 2014, she earned a Master of Arts in media and communications from Brunel University in the UK.
She currently hosts World EXPO program at Ittihad newspaper, Abu Dhabi Media. She has previously held Senior Presenter position at the television network for more than five years. Prior to Abu Dhabi Media, she worked at Dubai Media Incorporated for eight years, covering financial and economic news. Ms. Al Darmaki was the first Emirati woman to host the leading daily financial market program “Tadawul.” She has broadcasted special news coverage from Jordan, Morocco, Russia, and Italy, bringing a wide variety of national and foreign affairs to viewers in the UAE. Ms. Al Darmaki has also interviewed many of the country’s leaders, including Minister of State for International Cooperation, H.E. Reem Al Hashimy, Cultural Adviser to the President, H.E. Zaki Nusseibeh.
In 2019, Fatima Al Darmaki ran for the Federal National Council with an agenda focused on gender, young people, and small medium enterprises. Although she did not win this election, Fatima has established herself as a renowned journalist, writer, and news presenter. Notwithstanding her many achievements, Ms. Al Darmaki is also a painter, photographer, perfumer, short-film director, producer, and horseback rider.
Ms Al Darmaki was selected to make meaningful contributions to realizing our vision of a world where no one is needlessly blind. She joins other of The Foundation’s ambassadors, including the presenter and international speaker Sally Mousa, presenter and architecture engineer Shahd Al Jumaily, and content creator and undergraduate student in dentistry Raghad Fahmy. Collectively, they play a leading role in raising public awareness about eye health.
Currently, 43 million people around the world are blind and 1.1 billion live with some form of vision loss. About 90 per cent of those affected live in low-income and middle-income countries. “If we don’t act now by 2050, it is estimated that more than 61 million people will be blind because of the growing and ageing global population,” Mr Wishart said. “However, we can fix the problem. Nine out of ten people who are blind or vision-impaired don’t need to be.”
Ms. Al Darmaki will help raise awareness of the important global issue of ending avoidable blindness. Fatima is no stranger to vision loss—in fact, she is well-versed in this issue from her personal and professional experiences. Her knowledge has grown as a result of her extensive journalism coverage of eye health projects in 2018 and 2019 in North Africa.
Recalling her own experience with eye health, she said: “My late father felt distressed at not being able to see clearly. The ophthalmologist told him he was suffering from an eye condition which left him partially blind in one of his eyes. Luckily his condition was treatable blindness. My father never complained about his health problems and did not like to go to hospitals, but when his sight deteriorated, he did not wait and immediately sought treatment. This confirms that eye health has a tremendous impact on an individual’s wellbeing and quality of life. When elderly people lose their sight, they lose their autonomy, dignity, and self-sufficiency. When The Foundation approached me last year, I learned a lot about vision loss and that the problem can be fixed with as little as AED 70 in some countries. It is remarkable to know that more than 90 per cent of vision loss is preventable or treatable.
“This is why I am deeply committed to The Foundation’s mission, and I am very proud to get behind this cause. I hope my involvement would help raise public awareness at local, regional, and international levels.”
Ambassadors are enabling The Foundation to strengthen its impact against vision loss and ensure no one is left behind in eye health. The Foundation has been restoring sight for almost three decades, building local capacity in eye health by working with local partners on the ground. Recently, The Fred Hollows Foundation and Noor Dubai Foundation signed a strategic long-term partnership to restore sight for thousands of children and adults in Bangladesh.
“I look forward to working closely with other ambassadors to ensure our collective efforts support The Foundation’s ultimate goal to reach zero prevalence of vision loss,” Fatima said.
“We are looking forward to having our Arab women ambassadors, Fatima, Sally, Shahd, and Raghad, travel to our projects, enabling them to witness the impact of restoring people’s sight, meet the patients, and hear their many stories.” Wishart said.
In 2020, The Fred Hollows Foundation in the Middle East and South Asia has:
- Screened 389,969 people for eye conditions.
- Performed 27,733 eye operations and treatments.
- Distributed 17,344 pairs of glasses.
- Trained 6,633 people including surgeons and clinic support staff.
- Educated 57,143 school children and community members in eye health and sanitation.
- Built, equipped, and/or renovated 5 medical facilities.