Published 7 July 2016

The Countess of Wessex joined Orbis, the international charity that fights blindness around the world, as they launched their new Flying Eye Hospital.

More than six years in the making, the third-generation Flying Eye Hospital is the world’s only mobile ophthalmic teaching hospital on board an aircraft, and Her Royal Highness had to opportunity to explore the Flying Hospital using the latest virtual reality technology.

Hundreds of experts have come together to combine the latest in avionics, hospital engineering,technology and clinical expertise to make the new Flying Eye Hospital a reality. It features a modular design, 3D technology and live broadcast capabilities enabling Orbis, alongside its team of over 400 medical volunteers, to train more doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals - ultimately treating more people and restoring their sight.

Across the globe 39 million people are blind, with 4 out of 5 suffering from preventable conditions. Ninety percent of blind people live in developing countries where they cannot access sight-saving treatments that many of us take for granted. For more than 30 years, Orbis has helped countries build the skills and resources they need to prioritise and deliver quality eye care to their local communities.

The Countess is passionate about eradicating avoidable blindness and, as Patron of Vision 2020: The Right to Sight and Global Ambassador for the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, has seen first-hand the difference organisations with the right knowledge, experience and funding can make on a global scale.

The Countess has been a Global Ambassador for the International Agency for Preventative Blindness (IAPB) since 2003.

In 2013, this role took Her Royal Highness to the Orbis flying hospital programme in India and Qatar where she saw first-hand the many global issues around preventable blindness.