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The Edinburghs

The Duchess of Edinburgh speaks out on eye health on World Sight Day

Photo: Benjamin Wareing

The Duchess of Edinburgh released a video message marking World Sight Day, calling for the elimination of trachoma and praising the work that has been done globally to help eliminate the condition in 17 countries around the world.

In a video from Ethiopia, Sophie said: “World Sight Day reminds us all how important eye health is and how sometimes we can take this important sense for granted. It’s also an opportunity to stress that early, timely intervention often means preventable or treatable conditions will not lead to sight loss.

She added that the goal is to eliminate trachoma by 2030 and that all the progress in eliminating the condition in 17 countries, including Benin, Mali and Malawi, must not impede us “from what is further required to eliminate preventable blindness by ensuring eye care services are available for all across the globe.”

The royal has been in Ethiopia all week as Global Ambassador of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness to view the work of eye care charity Orbis and learn about how trachoma treatment and other eye care services are administered within the country.

“Trachoma is an eye disease that has been around for thousands of years. It is an incredibly painful eye condition, which, if left untreated, often leads to blindness,” Sophie said. “But with surgery, antibiotics, facial cleanliness and access to clean water, sanitation and eye care services, we can defeat trachoma.”

On Thursday, Sophie carried out engagements related to eye care in honour of World Sight Day, including a first-of-its-kind medical conference in Addis Ababa that brought together eye care professionals and participants to discuss ways to eliminate trachoma.

According to Orbis UK’s website, Sophie delivered the keynote address at the conference and again called for the elimination of trachoma, saying, “We must not let ourselves become defocused or complacent. We are on the cusp of achieving something almost unimaginable in previous years.  Every person involved in this vital work has reason to be so very proud of each and every accomplishment…

“We are creeping closer to our incredible goal, and I urge you all to keep your eyes on the prize and to make this disease so awful that it is worthy of mention in the Bible, a thing of the past and give our communities the gift of sight.”

The Duchess further visited the Hawassa Tertiary Eye Care Unit to see the simulation training set up in partnership by Orbis and also took part in a skill-testing cataract surgery simulation. Later, she visited a local school and learned how teachers are helping screen students for trachoma and teaching them better eye care practices.

Sophie’s video message ended with: “Let us continue to celebrate, invest in and guarantee sight. Happy World Sight Day.”

The Duchess of Edinburgh’s invitation to visit Ethiopia came at the request of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. She has also carried out engagements related to gender violence in conflict zones.

About author

Jess is the Senior Royal Reporter and Editorial Assistant at Royal Central. Her interest in royalty started in her teenage years, coinciding with The Queen's Golden Jubilee in 2002 and grew from there. She specializes in the British Royal Family (with emphasis on the Cambridges) and the Danish Royal Family, and has provided royal commentary for media outlets in Canada, the United States, the UK and Australia.