The Countess of Wessex tried her hand at an unexpected new role Wednesday – eye surgeon – when she performed simulated cataract surgery on model eyes whilst attending the five-year meeting of The Commonwealth Eye Health Consortium.
The countess serves as Vice-Patron of The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, which aims to end preventable blindness and empower young leaders. She also works with several other charities working toward this goal, such as Vision 2020: The Right to Sight and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness.
“The Countess of Wessex is passionate about eradicating avoidable blindness and has seen first-hand the difference organisations with the right knowledge, experience and funding can make on a global scale,” said The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust.
The Consortium welcomed about 170 eye health experts from 27 Commonwealth countries at Prospero House in London. During the event, the countess met with many of these professionals to discuss how to best develop eye health services across the Commonwealth.
According to the Consortium, worldwide there are 285 million visually impaired people, of whom 39 million are blind. Even though 80% of blindness and visual impairment is curable or treatable, millions of Commonwealth residents do not have access to quality eye care.
Established in 2015, The Commonwealth Eye Health Consortium was created by The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust in partnership with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. It forms a network of eye health centres across 47 Commonwealth countries and creates national programmes working to stop preventable vision loss and blindness.
The Countess of Wessex witnessed first-hand some of the skills being taught to Commonwealth eye doctors, including the specialist surgical training equipment which she used to practice a simulated eye surgery.
One of the healthcare workers the Countess of Wessex met with was Aubrey Mankaka Banda, an Eye Programme Manager from Malawi. The country recently reported they have removed the risk of trachoma – a leading cause of blindness – from the country.
The countess, having visited the country in 2017 with The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, wrote an open letter to congratulate them on this milestone.
“In 2014, when The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust – of which I am Vice-Patron – began work in Malawi, 8 million people were at risk of losing their sight to trachoma. Now there are none,” she said.
“When I visited the country in 2017, the last few cases of trachoma were being located and treated. For the next two years, the country will carefully monitor and manage any new cases of trachoma. All being well, in 2020 the World Health Organisation will be able to certify that the disease is eliminated as a public health problem in Malawi. What an achievement that will be.”
Thursday the Countess will host a reception at St. James’s Palace for participants of the Consortium, as well as High Commissioners, policy makers and eye health experts to “celebrate the achievements of global eye health leaders in their efforts to bring vision to everyone, everywhere.”