Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex, Global Ambassador for the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB), will visit Botswana and Malawi between Monday 10th and Friday 14th October, celebrating World Sight Day in Malawi on Thursday 13th October.
Worldwide, more than 1 billion people live with preventable sight loss and in 2012, The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust (TQEDJT) was launched, with an aim to end avoidable blindness across the Commonwealth and beyond. During the Trust’s lifetime, The Countess of Wessex served as Vice Patron, and in Botswana and Malawi, Her Royal Highness will witness first-hand the lasting impact and legacy of the work undertaken in Queen Elizabeth’s name, celebrating the remarkable progress that has been made, and meeting those who have benefited from lifechanging surgery and pioneering eye care programmes. The Countess last saw the Trust’s work in Malawi during a visit in 2017.
At a local primary school in Botswana, The Countess of Wessex will hear about the nationwide programme, Pono Yame, which means “My Vision”, will offer all school-going children in Botswana eye health screening, assessment and treatments, from glasses to surgeries. It is the first government-led programme of its kind in Africa, and is based on technology from Peek Vision, one of the initiatives funded by TQEDJT. At the school – one the first to take part in the Pono Yame programme – Her Royal Highness will celebrate the programme launch and see Peek Vision’s technology in action, before spending time with the pupils.
Pono Yame, which means “My Vision”, is currently being implemented in schools across Botswana, offering eye screening to pupils and teachers alike, and providing access to treatments, from glasses to surgeries. At the school – one the first to take part in the Pono Yame programme – Her Royal Highness will see Peek Vision’s innovative eye screening technology in action, before spending time with the pupils.
While in Botswana, The Countess of Wessex will also attend a Chevening and Commonwealth Scholars and Commonwealth Points of Light Reception, celebrating the academic and community-based accomplishments of young people from across the family of nations, including athletes who recently took part in the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
On World Sight Day, 13th October, The Countess of Wessex will join the national, annual celebrations in Malawi. Her Royal Highness will visit a local clinic to learn more about the sight-saving surgeries and treatments, and will hear the stories of patients whose lives have been transformed, with their eye sight restored.
Last week, it was announced by the World Health Organization that Malawi has become the first country in Southern Africa to eliminate trachoma, the infectious eye disease. Sightsavers’ Trachoma Initiative, supported by TQEDJT, worked in partnership with Malawi’s Ministry of Health, and The Countess of Wessex will congratulate all involved on their inspiring achievement.