On the 12th of April, in her role as the Global Ambassador for The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Edinburgh joined Orbis to mark the first Orbis Visionaries reception at the Gherkin, in central London.
The event celebrated vital advancements in eye health, from Virtual Reality training, to Artificial Intelligence to support the diagnosis of eye conditions, to Women Led Green Vision Centres, which tackle gender related barriers to seeking eye care.
Whilst there has been significant progress in tackling global vision loss through such advancements, the event also focused on the critical priorities ahead for ending avoidable blindness. This included ongoing work to eliminate trachoma by 2030, and training new generations of eye doctors and nurses in low-and-middle income countries.
With avoidable vision loss impacting livelihoods and educations as well as directly impacting quality of life, programmes and projects to reduce avoidable blindness will play a vital part in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Nick Fox, Chairman, Orbis UK said: “Over 1.1 billion people in the world today are living with sight loss, including blindness. The scale and challenge of sight loss is undeniably immense, yet over 90% of cases are treatable or avoidable. To solve this challenge, it takes a committed group of people and organisations who are ready to change the world. We are unwavering in our commitment to delivering sustainable and scalable solutions that will transform millions of lives.”
Guests including Her Royal Highness, heard from speakers about various aspects of Orbis’s work, including:
Hunter Cherwek, Vice President, Clinical Services & Technologies, Orbis International who spoke about the charity’s approach to training, including Orbis Flying Eye Hospital programmes, and Cybersight.
Twenty years ago, Orbis launched the telemedicine service, which has grown to become the world’s largest free-to-access digital learning platform for ophthalmology. Over 80,000 registered users access Cybersight webinars and courses from anywhere in the world to enhance their skills and gain expert advice that will benefit patients.
Kate Gannon, Head of Programme Funding & Andrew Wardle, Senior Grants Manager, Orbis UK discussed Orbis’s long-term programmes, in collaboration with their amazing local partners. Together they deliver sight-saving programmes spanning 13 countries, including Ethiopia where they fight against blinding Trachoma, in accordance with the World Health Organisation’s goal to eliminate the disease by 2030.
Women and girls account for 70% of all Trachoma cases and globally, 112 million more females than males live with vision loss. So, gender is a vital part of programming. The event showcased Orbis’s work in Bangladesh, where Women-led Green Vision Centres provide both livelihood opportunities for local women whilst also seeing a higher proportion of women and girls attending the clinics compared to centres run by men.
Annabelle Miles and Danielle Hutchings from FundamentalVR demonstrated their organisations collaboration with the charity on the Orbis FVR simulator, which provides the most realistic surgical training simulation to date. It is the combination of a virtual reality headset to transport the user into a digital operating theatre, and the haptic-feedback instruments that mimic the texture, resistance and delicacy of operating on the eye create an experience like no-other, and prepare surgeons for the real thing.
Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Edinburgh
Having previously travelled with Orbis to visit programmes in India in 2013 and Bangladesh in 2017, Her Royal Highness has witnessed first-hand the devastating impact of avoidable blindness on people’s lives. On these visits, The Duchess spoke with adults and children who had received life changing surgery, witnessing their initial reactions as their bandages were removed, in addition to speaking with Orbis’s expert medical volunteers and local eye care teams, providing vital services to their communities.
During the Duchess’s visit to Dhaka, she was reacquainted with nurse Mammoth Adhikary, who she met in the Ispahani Islamia Eye Institute in 2009. Mammoth was involved in the very first Orbis Flying Eye Hospital programme in Bangladesh back in 1985 and is now Head Nurse at the hospital. www.orbis.org.uk