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

On the 24th of April, Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Edinburgh, joined us for our 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.

Her Royal Highness spoke passionately about her visit to Ethiopia with Orbis, to learn about our work to eliminate blinding trachoma

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 our projects across Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, we also operate the world’s only fully accredited ophthalmic teaching hospital on board a plane, the Flying Eye Hospital.

Speakers at the event reflected on Orbis’s work to tackle this vast issue over the last twelve months, including:

  • The 100 millionth dose of antibiotics being delivered in southern Ethiopia to fight highly infectious trachoma, and its elimination in Gedeo, positively affecting over 1 million people. Repeated infections cause eyelashes to turn inward, where they scrape across the eye’s surface with every excruciating blink, leading to permanent.
  • 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 our 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.

In October 2023, Orbis welcomed Her Royal Highness to see our 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.

Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Edinburgh

Global Ambassador for the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness

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 blind­ing tra­choma or whether it be from cataracts.”

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
  • Environment.

In Ethiopia, women make up 70% of those with trachoma trichiasis, the blinding stage of the condition. We 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.

We're proud to have welcomed Her Royal Highness to several of our 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 our work first hand, training local eye care professionals and supporting the community.

OMEGA have been key supporters of Orbis since 2011, with Seymour the teddy bear providing comfort and care to young patients onboard the Flying Eye Hospital

The Visionaries evening was supported by OMEGA, who have contributed to our 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 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

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.”


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