Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh has traveled to Ethiopia on a solo trip ahead of World Sight Day later this week.
The royal’s visit will spotlight the prevention of blindness, one of her most important causes. Sophie, who has been a global ambassador for the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness for nearly twenty years has been an ardent supporter of eye health, helping those with sight loss and eye health needs in the UK and around the world.
Last year she visited Botswana and Malawi to raise awareness about the importance of eye health and to congratulate those involved in helping to eliminate trachoma in the country. Her visit to Ethiopia is to celebrate the work of the international eyecare charity Orbis and to mark World Sight Day on October 12th.
Eye health and raising awareness around the issue is a cause close to Sophie’s heart. Her daughter Lady Louise Windsor was born with esotropia, a rare condition that turns the eye outwards and caused Lady Louise to struggle with her vision growing up. She underwent her first eye procedure at 18 months to correct her vision. She has had two surgeries to correct her vision. “She’s fine now – her eyesight is perfect,” the Duchess has said of her daughter.
However, Sophie’s first-hand experience has led to a decades-long campaign to raise awareness about the importance of good eye health and she has been actively involved in helping Ethiopia eliminate trachoma, an infectious and blinding disease.
The late Queen was hugely supportive of Sophie’s work and in 2020 joined the then Countess of Wessex for a video call with eye health professionals providing eye care around the Commonwealth.
Sophie has made the visit to Ethiopia at the request of the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office and earlier this week traveled to the north of the country to Tigray where she saw the work of UNICEF in response to the devastating and far-reaching impact of conflict-related sexual violence and gender-based violence, another cause the Duchess has championed. Here the Duchess met with women and girls at a camp where she heard stories about their challenges and took part in sewing activities. The Duchess also visited a children’s area of the camp where she took part in a table tennis game before visiting a Women’s Development Centre to help vulnerable women.
Later this week, Sophie will visit a rural health clinic and hospital where sight-saving medical screenings and surgeries are carried out daily with support from the charity Orbis. She will meet patients whose sight has been restored and visit a school as well as attend a conference on how to eliminate trachoma.