On the 11th March 2019, people in Commonwealth countries in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Americas, the Pacific and Europe observed the Commonwealth Day. The day was celebrated with a broad range of activities, including faith and civic gatherings, debates, school assemblies, flag raising ceremonies, street parties, cultural events and a multicultural, multi-faith service at Westminster Abbey.
The theme for 2019 is ‘A Connected Commonwealth’, which offers opportunities for the people, governments and institutions of this richly diverse family of nations to connect and work together at many levels through far-reaching and deep-rooted networks of friendship and goodwill. This year also marks the 70th anniversary of the formation of the Commonwealth.
Since HRH couldn’t attend the service as she travelled to New York to take part in Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations, The Countess of Wessex has written a letter to the people of Malawi – congratulating them on removing the risk of trachoma. HRH is Vice-Patron of Queen Jubilee Trust, which works across the Commonwealth to end avoidable blindness.
Today marks two years since Queen Jubilee Trust’s Vice-Patron HRH visited Malawi to see the work of the Trust’s Trachoma Initiative in action. During her visit, The Countess met Safira, now aged 14. Like many school children across Malawi, Safira has played a significant role in the country’s efforts to eliminate trachoma by teaching her community about the dangers of the disease and how to prevent it. To learn more about Safira, and her story since meeting HRH, click here.
Malawi is the first country within the Trust’s Trachoma Initiative to have reduced the prevalence of the disease to under 5% of the population – a huge milestone in its journey to wipe out the disease in its entirety. In her letter, The Countess wrote:
I am delighted to hear the news that it is now official: Malawi has removed the risk of trachoma across the country.
For millennia, trachoma has blighted the lives of millions. Slowly and painfully, people lose their sight. They become unable to leave their homes, go to work and provide for their families. Children miss school as they have to stay at home to care for their relatives. Communities are trapped in a cycle of poverty, moving from one generation to the next.
But now trachoma is preventable and treatable. With leadership and a concerted effort over several years, it can be eliminated.
Also today, an interview with The Countess of Wessex on her work to champion the elimination of avoidable blindness across the Commonwealth was aired as part of A Service of Celebration for the Commonwealth on BBC One. You will fine the video on The Commonwealth official website, click here – it’s titled Commonwealth Day BBC One feature. For video of the service attended by the Royal family, click here. For press release by the Trust on HRH’s letter, click here.