The Duchess of Edinburgh marks World Sight Day in Ethiopia
Published 09 October 2023
This week, The Duchess of Edinburgh, as Global Ambassador for the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB), is visiting Ethiopia to celebrate the transformative work of the international eye care charity Orbis, and participate in national World Sight Day festivities.
Over the weekend, at the request of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, The Duchess of Edinburgh travelled to Tigray.
Here, Her Royal Highness saw the work of UNICEF in the region, in response to the devastating and far-reaching impact of conflict related sexual violence (CRSV), and gender-based violence.
The Duchess has championed the Prevention of Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative (PSVI), and survivors of CRSV, for a number of years, and has travelled widely to bear witness to their testimonies.
The Duchess of Edinburgh visited Sabacare IDP Camp, which has a population of over 16,000 Internally Displaced Persons, the majority of whom are women and girls. Her Royal Highness spent time hearing about the ongoing challenges they face and the specialised help they receive from trained UNICEF supported workers before joining them for some skilled sewing activities.
The Duchess also visited a child friendly space in the camp, where children have a safe place to play, learn and thrive.
At Ayder Hospital’s One Stop Centre (OSC) for survivors of gender-based violence, Her Royal Highness heard about the range of medical and counselling treatments that have aided hundreds of women in the midst of the humanitarian crisis, before visiting the Women’s Development Centre; a charity that equips vulnerable women, many of whom are survivors of conflict related sexual violence, with skills to help them lead an independent life with secure employment.
On Tuesday in Hawassa, The Duchess continued her visit to Ethiopia as Global Ambassador for the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness. Her Royal Highness met health workers screening for and treating blinding trachoma at a primary eye care unit, and learnt about the challenges people face which can lead to trachoma, which include limited access to clean water and sanitation.
With repeated infections, this condition will cause a person’s eye lids to turn inwards, scrapping and damaging the surface with every painful blink. 70% of cases in Ethiopia impact women, who make up 70% or more of those receiving surgery for the advanced stage of this condition through the programmes of eye care charity Orbis.
The Duchess also visited a local school to see how children are screened by teachers for many eye conditions, and where they learn about how to protect themselves from trachoma, through school eye care clubs sharing the information through plays and songs. The early stage of the trachoma infection is most common in children ages 1 to 9 years. If they develop the condition, their education can be impacted without quick access to treatment.
At Hawassa Tertiary Eye Care unit, Her Royal Highness was shown the simulation training opportunities available at the hospital, which were established by Orbis. With the use of virtual reality and cutting-edge prosthetics, eye care teams can build their skills and confidence safely before progressing to real-life surgeries.
On Wednesday, The Duchess of Edinburgh took part in a historic trachoma elimination conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which bought together over 40 organisations and more than 100 participants who discussed obstacles, successes and future plans.
Her Royal Highness delivered the keynote speech, highlighting the impact of trachoma on women, children, livelihoods and education. The Duchess also recognised the hard work and dedication of the government and organisations collaborating closely to make trachoma history in the country. The World Health Organisation has set a timeline to eliminate trachoma by 2030.
So much has been achieved both here in Ethiopia and around the world. But now is the time that we must all redouble our efforts if we are to achieve our aim of eliminating trachoma by the year 2030, which is a mere six years away.
On Thursday, The Duchess joined events to mark World Sight Day in Addis Ababa. This year's theme is focusing the world’s attention on the importance of eye care in the workplace and encouraging employers to make eye health initiatives standard practice.
The event took place at Berhanena Selam Printing Enterprise, where over 900 staff were being provided with free eye tests, in addition to attending presentations about how to protect their vision, and performances by the Police Marching Band, and the Addis Ababa Children and Youth Club.
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