HRH The Countess of Wessex announced as Vice-Patron of the Trust

Today, on the occasion of her 50th birthday, it is announced that Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex has become Vice-Patron of The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust (the Trust), a charitable foundation established in 2012 to honour Her Majesty The Queen’s lifetime of service to the Commonwealth.

In her first official engagement with the Trust, The Countess was introduced to its Avoidable Blindness Programme at a visit to one of the charity’s lead partners, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

Joined by His Royal Highness The Earl of Wessex, The Countess will meet individuals and organisations funded by the Trust who deliver its programmes to strengthen eye health care in Commonwealth countries. The Trust has a particular focus on eliminating blinding trachoma and reducing instances of blindness in premature babies and in people living
with diabetes.

Within the Commonwealth, an estimated 15 million people are blind,  yet 80% of all blindness is avoidable. Since its establishment by Commonwealth Heads of Government in 2012 to mark The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the Trust has been developing an ambitious programme to significantly reduce blindness from preventable causes in Commonwealth
countries. Within five years, by working in alliance with expert organisations in eye health, the Trust aims to:

  • Eliminate trachoma – the world’s leading infectious cause of blindness – in Kenya, Malawi, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Kiribati, and make significant advances towards its elimination in five other Commonwealth countries.
  • Reduce the rates of diabetic retinopathy – caused by high blood sugar levels damaging the blood vessels in the retina, which results in irreversible blindness – in India and the Pacific. With diabetes on the rise globally and set to increase by 60% in the Commonwealth by 2030, diabetic retinopathy is on course to become the world’s leading cause of avoidable blindness.
  • Reduce cases of retinopathy of prematurity – total and irreversible blindness in babies born prematurely who do not receive adequate health care in the early stages of their life – in India,which has the second highest number of pre-term births of any country in the world.
  • Make high quality eye care available to all who need it by supporting new fellowships, research and the development of technology to improve expertise and strengthen eye care across the Commonwealth.

The Rt Hon Sir John Major KG CH, Chairman of The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, said:

The Trustees are delighted and honoured that HRH The Countess of Wessex has chosen to mark her 50th Birthday by becoming Vice-Patron of the Trust. The Countess has long had an interest in the prevention of avoidable blindness, and her involvement and longstanding association with other leading organisations in this field is of enormous value to the Trust. As Vice-Patron, The Countess will make a significant contribution to the ending of avoidable blindness across the Commonwealth and, on behalf of all the Trustees, I extend a very warm welcome, and wish Her Royal Highness the happiest of birthdays.