The Duchess of Edinburgh Attends Visionaries Reception

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The Duchess of Edinburgh, joined global blindness prevention charity, Orbis, for their second annual Visionaries reception at the historic Abbey Road Studios in St John’s Wood, London, 24 April 2024. Credit: Ben Stevens / Story Picture Agency
The Duchess of Edinburgh, joined global blindness prevention charity, Orbis, for their second annual Visionaries reception at the historic Abbey Road Studios in St John’s Wood, London, 24 April 2024. Credit: Ben Stevens / Story Picture Agency

HRH The Duchess of Edinburgh Attends Annual Visionaries Reception at Abbey Road Studios

Wednesday, 24th April 2024

On the evening of the 24th of April, Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Edinburgh, joined global blindness prevention charity, Orbis, for their second annual Visionaries reception at the historic Abbey Road Studios in St John’s Wood, London. The Duchess attended in her role as the Global Ambassador for the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness.

Since 1982, Orbis has been working to support people across the world to gain access to the eye care they need to thrive. Today, 1.1 billion people live with vision loss globally, yet 90% of cases are avoidable. The majority of those affected live in low- and middle-income countries where health services can be difficult to access. As well as their projects across Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, the organisation also operates the world’s only fully accredited ophthalmic teaching hospital on board a plane, the Flying Eye Hospital.  

The speakers at the event reflected on Orbis’s achievements from the last 12 months, which included:

  • The 100 millionth dose of antibiotics being delivered in southern Ethiopia to fight highly infectious trachoma, and its elimination in Gedeo (a geographical zone in south-west Ethiopia, 369 kilometres from the capital Addis Ababa), positively affecting over one million people. Repeated trachoma infections cause eyelashes to turn inward, where they scrape across the eye’s surface with every excruciating blink, leading to permanent blindness if not treated.
  • The first patient facing Orbis Flying Eye Hospital training programme since the pandemic began. The aircraft has helped to increase the skills of eye health professionals in more than 95 countries and patients are treated both onboard and within local partner hospitals.
  • Surpassing over 90,000 users, covering almost every country in the world, on the charity’s free telemedicine and e-learning platform, Cybersight, which also helps health care professionals detect common eye diseases in seconds using artificial intelligence (AI) software.
  • Tackling barriers to eye care by further developing Women-Led Green Vision Centres in Bangladesh. These have seen an average of 21% more women and girls seeking eye care since their establishment, compared to standard services.
The Duchess of Edinburgh, joined global blindness prevention charity, Orbis, for their second annual Visionaries reception at the historic Abbey Road Studios in St John’s Wood, London, 24 April 2024. Credit: Orbis
The Duchess of Edinburgh, joined global blindness prevention charity, Orbis, for their second annual Visionaries reception at the historic Abbey Road Studios in St John’s Wood, London, 24 April 2024. Credit: Orbis

In October 2023, Orbis welcomed Her Royal Highness to their work in Hawassa, Ethiopia, where she witnessed first-hand, dedicated health workers screening for and treating trachoma, and met teachers assessing children for the condition, as well as other sight loss issues. The Duchess also spoke to volunteers who travel into their communities to identify people, in particular women and children, in need of urgent eye care who would otherwise go without and refer them to nearby health centres.

Trachoma is one of the world’s oldest infectious diseases, but still impacts millions of people today. Spread by a lack of access to clean water and sanitation, it is treated with the World Health Organization (WHO) SAFE strategy: Surgery, Antibiotics, Face Washing and Environment. In Ethiopia, women make up 70% of those with trachoma trichiasis, the blinding stage of the condition. Orbis are committed to the elimination of trachoma by 2030 in line with WHO goals, through training, treatment and supporting the construction of communal and school latrines.

During the event, Her Royal Highness spoke about her visit: “To be out in the field and to see what Orbis are doing on the ground, delivering services that are truly life changing for people, many of whom have been suffering for years, to give them their lives back, is absolutely amazing. I had the chance to stand in on an operation to correct the eyelids. It is amazing how in the space of minutes somebody’s life is transformed. It’s not right that there are so many people out there living with these conditions, whether it be blindness from trachoma or whether it be from cataracts.”

Orbis is proud to have welcomed Her Royal Highness to several of their programmes over the years, including a visit to a Flying Eye Hospital project in 2013 in Kolkata, India, and then again to Dhaka and Chattogram, in 2017, where she saw their work first hand, training local eye care professionals and supporting the community.

The Visionaries evening was supported by OMEGA, who have contributed to Orbis’s sight saving work since 2011. As well as providing vital funding for the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital, they’ve also raised awareness through global campaigns featuring brand ambassadors such as Cindy Crawford and Daniel Craig. In addition, OMEGA generously provides Seymour Teddy Bears as comfort for children pre- and post-eye surgery.

Nick Fox, Chairman of Orbis UK said: “The Orbis Visionaries event has not only given us the chance to reflect on our work from the past year, to thank donors for the difference they are making, but to also recognise the devoted eye care professionals who, day after day, are saving sight in their local communities. We too celebrate the medical volunteers from the NHS and around the world, who dedicate their time and expertise to train entire health care teams, from eye doctors to biomedical engineers, in the places that need it most.”

Orbis is committed to ensuring no one has to live with the consequences of preventable sight loss, through developing sustainable eye care systems that put treatment and prevention within reach. From training eye care professionals across the globe through their long-term projects, virtual reality training and an artificial intelligence platform that helps to diagnose, treat, and manage vision problems, Orbis and their partners are working to ensure people have access to the eye care they need to thrive.  

If you would like to find out more about Orbis’s work, and how you can help, visit their website: www.orbis.org.uk

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