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Countess of Wessex in Malawi to see work for ending avoidable blindness

Her Royal Highness, the Countess of Wessex, began a trip to Malawi yesterday, 13 March, in her capacity of Vice-Patron of The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust. While there, she will be visiting Trust programmes that are working to champion young leaders and end avoidable blindness.

During her visit, HRH will have the opportunity to visit Chulu in the Kasunga district where she will see the progress being made in the initiative to eliminate blinding trachoma. Trachoma is an infectious disease and the fight to eradicate it has been the centrepiece of the Trust’s programme in Malawi since 2014.

After having no means of fighting the disease for hundreds of years the coordinated efforts of the Ministry of Health and partners supported by the Trust mean that now no one in Malawi need lose their sight. This success is the result of a major programme of mass drug administration, providing surgery for those in the advanced stages of the disease and community work to make the changes needed to stop the disease from continuing the spread.

The Countess of Wessex will also see the long-term work the Trust is doing in Malawi to improve the country’s eye health services for present and future generations. This includes developing new technology such as Peek, the Portable Eye Examination Kit, providing local specialists with access to scholarships and fellowships and linking specialist teams across the Commonwealth.

Dr Joseph Msosa undertook a clinical fellowship with the support of the Trust and is now Head of the Ophthalmology Department at Kamuzu Central Hospital Lilongwe. He said:

‘Delivering quality eye health services across Malawi is a challenge. The support of The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust is helping us to meet that challenge. Thanks to the Commonwealth Eye Health Consortium Malawian eye specialists have been able to hone their skills and forge lasting connections with others across the Commonwealth, from South Africa and Scotland to Bangladesh and India. And the new technology could be transformational for people needing eye care. Diagnosing and treating eye conditions promptly will help us win the battle against avoidable blindness.’

HRH will also get the opportunity to observe two of Malawi’s Queen’s Young Leaders at work – this year’s winner, Virginia Khunguni, and last year’s winner Madalo Banda. Chief Executive of The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust Dr Astrid Bonfield CBE said:

‘Malawi’s Queen’s Young Leaders are already changing lives for the better and have the potential to achieve much more. We are proud to be able to introduce these remarkable young people to our Vice Patron, Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex so that she can see first-hand the difference they are making.’

Dr Astrid continued: ‘We are delighted that our Vice Patron is visiting Malawi at this time, as Malawi reaches a milestone in the fight against blinding trachoma. It is a real cause for celebration that from now on no one in Malawi need lose their sight from this ancient, painful, infectious disease and an example we hope other countries in the Commonwealth affected by blinding trachoma will follow. The Trust’s contribution to the elimination of blinding trachoma across the Commonwealth is a very substantial one, and will be a central part of the legacy we’re working to create in honour of Her Majesty The Queen as Head of the Commonwealth.’

The Commonwealth Heads of Government established the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust in 2011 to ‘enrich the lives of citizens and secure a lasting legacy of positive social change in honour of Her Majesty The Queen.’ The Trust is active in all 52 independent member countries which make up the Commonwealth, serving a combined population of more than 2.4 billion people – a quarter of the world’s population.

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