Sophie, The Countess of Wessex has penned an article for Huffington Post UK about trachoma-induced blindness, and how Malawi, which she visited in March, has dealt with the disease.
Sophie has been supporting programs focused on avoidable blindness for years, and in March, as Vice-Patron of The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, she traveled to Malawi as part of her work. In a follow up to that visit, she has written the following:
“For most of us an eyelash occasionally rubbing against your eye is a mild and momentary irritation. But try to imagine if all of your eyelashes were constantly and painfully rubbing against your eye, scratching and scraping the surface of your eyeball with every single blink and progressively damaging your cornea until you eventually went blind. This is the shocking reality for those who live with untreated advanced trachoma. The disease is the world’s leading infectious cause of blindness and is responsible for the visual impairment of an estimated 2.2million people, of whom 1.2million are irreversibly blind.
“Yet blinding trachoma is preventable, treatable at a low cost, and can be eliminated.
“In March I had the opportunity to travel to Malawi, as Vice-Patron of The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust. Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world and faces many health challenges. When the Trust’s initiative to eliminate blinding trachoma started in 2014, eight million people in the country were at risk from the enduring cycle of poverty that trachoma brings – the loss of independence, the inability to work and care for their families.
“Now, an historic milestone has almost been reached; Malawi is on track to eliminate the disease as a public health problem by the end of next year. Very soon no one in the country need lose their sight, or their livelihoods, as a result of blinding trachoma. This incredible achievement has not come easily, and has required the steadfast leadership and backing of the country’s Ministry of Health; the engagement of local communities; and a strong collaborative effort involving many organisations and partners supported by The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust.
“During my visit I travelled to Kasungu, a few hours’ drive north of the capital city Lilongwe. At the District Hospital I met a woman with advanced trachoma who recently had surgery to correct her turning-in eye lashes, relieving her of extreme and incessant pain and, wonderfully, restoring her sight. She told me that she had suffered from trachoma since 1958 and of her joy when she saw her Grandchildren for the first time. At nearby Chisuwe Primary School, I met a young girl called Safira, who was giving a presentation to her classmates about how they can reduce the spread of trachoma, something that had affected most of their families, by regularly washing their faces and hands.
“In the neighbouring village of Salipira I was shown a pit latrine, built and maintained by the villagers and now replicated across the District. These improvements in sanitation have significantly reduced the number of flies and, together with better hygiene and carefully dosed antibiotics, means the Kasungu District will soon have eliminated the disease. I also met a family living in the village where the Grandmother told me how thankful she was her infant Grandson would not have to grow up in the shadow of trachoma in the same way her daughter had.
“Malawi has shown what can be achieved. Blinding trachoma is endemic in 54 countries across the world, yet global elimination is well within our grasp through a proven strategy of better sanitation and hygiene, antibiotics and simple, inexpensive surgery. But the organisations battling trachoma need help to complete this critical work.
“We know that global elimination is possible; Malawi is showing that. This week sees the 70th World Health Assembly being held in Geneva. What an extraordinary achievement it would be to end this terrible blinding disease everywhere.
“To find out more about the organisations working to eliminate trachoma or to donate to their work please visit trachomacoalition.org”
I love it when royals write articles, because it gives me more of a connection to them and their ideas about the causes and charities they support. I learned quite a bit from Sophie’s article. I had no idea that Malawi is on track to eliminate trachoma with the next two years. That’s amazing.
Sophie didn’t say this, but her writing about ways to prevent trachoma – washing faces and hands regularly, improvements in sanitation – reminds me of an article Meghan Markle wrote on her old blog, The Tig, about how lack of clean water affects so many areas of people’s lives.
All of that stuff is so connected, and it’s great to read that Malawi’s Ministry of Health is committed to helping create change. There is only so much charities and individuals can do, for that higher level stuff you need the government involved. So good article from Sophie.
Below are a couple photos of Sohpie, as Chairman of Women in Business (promoting The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award), at a Buckingham Palace garden reception for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award gold award presentations, along with Prince Philip and Prince Edward. Sophie is wearing bespoke Emilia Wickstead.
22 thoughts on “Sophie, Countess of Wessex writes about trachoma blindness”
Thanks for sharing this, KMR, it’s a really informative article and a patronage that’s clearly close to Sophie’s heart. I remember her trip with Orbis to the middle east a few years back – it was amazing learning about the flying hospital and seeing how many people it could help. I’ve always wondered if her daughter’s eye problems have given her a special connection to this cause?
Great to see Sophie in action – she is a credit to the RF.
This is fantastic. Here is something of substance. Making a real difference. Agree with Oz Shan, Sophie is a real asset to the RF. She quietly gets on with it. Her article was very informative. Now that is impressive!
P.S It was great to see the Queen visiting the injured at the Royal Marsden Children’s Hospital. It would have been so uplifting for the injured and there families. Great work.
Goodness when you look at the roll call of victims it is truly dreadful, heartbreaking. Such a complete waste and for what?
The families, friends affected, the survivors and patrons at the concert, the emergency workers etc.. the list is endless. They will be mentally scarred for life, the damage that alone has done, not to mention the physical injuries. The loss of life, just out seeing a concert and having a good time, evil beyond belief.
Best wishes and speedy recovery to all afflicted.
Sincere condolences from us here in Australia, we are thinking of you, we carry a heavy heart as you do.
Thanks Sophia – I like to see credit for the work the lower profile Royals do. Sophie does not have the University education that Bill and Waity do – but she delivers – well prepared and on the mark every time. Hopefully whoever Harry ends up with will look to Sophie for inspiration.
Oz Shan you are absolutely right. Sophie doesn’t need a university education does she to put it all into perspective and get out there and be proactive. It is terrific to see as you said the Royals with a lower profile doing great inspirational work.
There is so much work that could be done that I believe is not being addressed by the higher rank younger royals. They certainly are in a privileged position and with that have access to the means to make things happen. A simple thing as a hospital visit, see the example set by the Queen, can you imagine, how uplifting that would be at the moment for the injured in Manchester recovering in hospital. Reach out to those who need it the most. Gosh it is not hard.
Sophia, as usual, your words are so thoughtfully put! I hope you and your daughter are doing well.
The lives that have been shattered in Manchester won’t be forgotten. Nor, will those that were shattered in other such acts of horror.
Thank you Mary Elizabeth, things are steady at present. Hope you and yours are doing well.
Your words are very profound and beautifully said, never to forget
Egypt’s Coptic community has suffered yet another’ act of terror meant to wipe out this community’s long ties within Egypt. It’s an act of genocide yet this isn’t getting much international headlines or attention. Maybe the children who were shot dead in Egypt, their innocence is worth less? My heart goes out to all peace loving Egyptians today and their beautiful country has gone through so much trauma for so long.
This is a very well written article. Her passion comes across clearly. Very well done to Sophie, the trust and to the Malawian government. She truly is a good role model for the younger roles.
a + to Sophie. A worthy cause to champion and her words were very well put!
And, yours, too, KMR. Loved your making mention of the importance of washing one’s hands and face (eye area) often, and hope that clean water prevails where this disease has been causing havoc.
I also am wondering if her daughter’s eye problems have made Sophie more attuned to this medical situation.
Many thanks for this post!
Another great column. Sophie does such a great job. I don’t know why the younger royals, men and women, don’t look to her as a mentor. News outlets should really quit giving WK such coverage and let the others who work harder get the spotlight.
I am definitely not a fan of Wickstead.
Hope everyone is getting their yearly glaucoma test, another preventable cause of blindness.
Such a well written and helpful piece! Sophie really takes the time to learn and grow.
I think her enthusiasm for helping others is wonderful. I agree that her daughter’s eye problems may have influenced her greatly to champion this particular issue.
I enjoy reading posts like this and seeing how so many people can and do make a difference. People who take their positions in life and use them wisely. Nice, very nice!
Can anyone tell me what eye condition Sophie’s daughter has? I’m asking because my daughter’s have an eye conditions..multiple. Knowing a famous person whose condition is the same as you can be helpful.
She has esotropia, where the eyes turn inward. She’s had two surgeries for the condition. I wonder if this has made Sophie interested in eye conditions? Great article.
Thanks KMR for highlighting Sophie’s work. I really appreciate how comprehensive she presents information in a relatively short article. Honestly I was not aware of trachoma, how it was such a threat in Malawi, how to reduce the risk, and how to help the charity. This is how Royals should support their patronage.
Sophie’s article was excellent and highlights one of the many facets of the good work done by The Prince’s Trust. Excellent work, Sophie.
I think her article is much better than anything Meg has written. I really dislike Meg’s writing for several reasons. She uses too many words to get to the point. On paper you can see she needs a good editor. And her message is so breathless as though she’s in a big hurry to show how warmhearted she is. Meg is an excellent networker, has friends in high places and is a good dresser. But I don’t see her as an altruistic humanitarian. She seems to me more like an LA actress-type who is trying to be relevant. Perhaps if she ever has the opportunity to work with a charity like the Prince’s Trust she can establish a track record that demonstrates her passion for causes. Then I’ll be convinced.
I have not read the whole article as I am about to go to sleep here in the UK. However my first thought was wow. Sophie has researched this, written an article that shows compassion and concern and it has been published so other people can know about this eye condition in Malawi. Sophie has not gone on about her wonderful childhood or used soundbites. This is clearly intelligently written and I hope it informs a lot more people as it has me.
Sophie really just amazes me with her charity work. I remember when she sorted out blankets etc when there was an earthquake or flood back in the early noughties. Well done Sophie and thank you for the article.
Sophie is a bright and articulate woman. Someone who cares, too. I think she is an inspiration and should be recognized more. KMR, you do feature her so often and that is wonderful. I wish she received more praise in other places and more exposure for her good work, too.
I learned something new from this article. Also, from your additional words, KMR. Thank you for including something so important on your blog!!
I have been offline for several days caring for a sick relative, who thankfully is much better. I send my thoughts and prayers to the people of Manchester and all GB. The terror attacks were horrific. The outpouring of help and love from strangers to those who were hurt is inspirational. The first responders and medical teams at hospitals deserve thanks from all, too.
Wishing everyone a time of healing.
So, the DOY office answered my letter that was dated April 8th, the copy HM’s staff sent., which is actually a quick reply. Anyways, of course I was met with polite rejection to meet her. However I don’t think they have yet read the letter about my book purposal yet (I sent it towards the end of February and its dated Feb 27.) In that letter I didn’t even know I’d be going to London yet. I’ll probably be met with more polite rejection or maybe they are choosing to be silent on that part
Lovely article thank you KMR! The western media highlights all the things that are going wrong in Africa (in general), so it’s nice to hear of a major public health victory beint highlighted in one of the countries there. And good on Sophie that she has continued with this work!
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