HRH The Countess of Wessex to visit India to see the work of the Trust

HRH The Countess of Wessex to visit India to see the work of the Trust

Next week, HRH The Countess of Wessex, in her capacity as Vice-Patron of The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, will begin a tour of India to see how the Trust is working across the country to prevent babies born prematurely from losing their sight. The Countess will also visit projects set up by two Queen’s Young Leaders to transform women’s health in India.

Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is the leading cause of childhood blindness worldwide. The disease exclusively affects preterm babies, as the blood vessels at the back of the eye have not had a chance to fully develop before birth. Premature babies are often given oxygen in the incubator to survive, but too much oxygen is highly toxic and can lead to total and irreversible sight loss. 

Before the Trust’s programme began in 2014, there were no national services in place to detect and treat ROP in India - home to the highest number of premature births in the world. As a result, the sight of thousands of children was at risk. Next week, The Countess will visit three hospitals across Hyderabad to see first-hand the work the Trust has helped to establish to ensure babies at risk of the avoidable condition receive the timely treatment they need to prevent blindness.

In Mumbai, The Countess will visit a school where she will meet Queen’s Young Leader, Deane de Menezes, whose project ‘Red is the new Green’ aims to destigmatise menstruation, improve access to menstrual hygiene and ultimately prevent female absenteeism in schools. The Countess will also visit a health centre where Queens Young Leader Aditya Kulkarni, whose pioneering ‘Care Mother’ antenatal app is being used to help reduce maternal and child mortality rates in India. The Countess will meet health workers and mothers, and hear how the app has helped over 30,000 women from disadvantaged communities in India access antenatal care.

In New Delhi, The Countess will join the British High Commissioner in hosting a reception to celebrate the collaborative efforts to advance eye health in India. The Countess will deliver a speech in which she will reflect on the progress achieved by the Trust in the name of The Queen and encourage efforts to continue and be taken to a greater scale so that vision is brought to everyone, everywhere. The reception will recognise the preparatory work underway to create a Vision Catalyst Fund – an endeavour inspired by the work of the Trust – which will see public and private sector organisations with expertise in eye health coming together with an ambition to accelerate systems change and expand universal eye health across the globe.

The Trust, a time-limited charitable foundation set up in 2012 to mark The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, is working to help end avoidable forms of blindness and to empower young leaders across the Commonwealth. In January 2020, it will close having successfully completed its five-year programmes and created a lasting legacy in honour of The Queen.