On the 27th October 2019, Mr. Basil Aitip, the National Eye Care Programme Coordinator arrived in London at the invitation of Queen Elizabeth, to represent Vanuatu and celebrate the success of the Diabetic Retinopathy Programme Support funded by the Diamond Jubilee Trust.

The trust was set up in 2012 by the Commonwealth Heads of Government with two main goals: to prevent avoidable blindness and to empower a new generation for young leaders. Its mission is to leave a lasting legacy owned by the Commonwealth in honour of the Queen. The Trust’s work will end as planned in 2020. It has improved the quality of eye care in every Commonwealth country.

In its lifetime, the trust has helped more than 22 million people in Africa and the pacific. It has ensured almost 19,200 people have received treatment to prevent the loss of sight due to diabetes.

Aitip started working with the Fred Hollows Foundation with support from the Trust fund in July 2017.

His role includes conducting training and workshops for health workers including village health workers, he has been instrumental in the development of Diabetic Retinopathy Eye brochures and flip charts to use as teaching aids.

He has been interviewed multiple times on radio Vanuatu to promote the awareness of diabetic retinopathy and the need of regular eye check. He is the liaison person for the new Vanuatu Eye care equipment that has been provided for treatment of diabetic retinopathy by the trust.

From the trust fund Dr Johnson Kasso received sponsorship for his trainings and graduated in December 2018 as the first Ni-Vanuatu Ophthalmologist.

His visit to London had given him the opportunity to visit the house of the Lords where he met Lord Robertson and the former prime minister of England, John Major, both of whom are members of the trust fund programme. On Monday 27th November he visited the house of the Lords where he met Lord Robertson and the former prime minister of England, John Major both of whom are members of the trust fund programme and was interviewed by the press team from the Trust, which can be seen on Instagram.

On Tuesday 28th November, Mr Aitip also visited the London school of hygiene and tropical medicine which is part of the Commonwealth Eye Consortium established in partnership with the Trust. At presentation by Dr Andrew Cooper [Trust Programme’s Manager] includes 3 key slides featuring how Diabetic Retinopathy programme is being delivered.

In the evening Mr Aitip was part of the reception hosted by Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace where he was honoured to spent time with the Queen personally. He acknowledged her for “choosing to safe sight as Vanuatu people have benefited greatly from the donation the country has received”. In her key note address, Sophie, Countess of Wessex included Vanuatu in the list of countries that the Queen was impressed with their achievements in eye care.

On Wednesday 29{sup}th{/sup} November, Mr Aitip also met Gordon and Pat Dickson. Gordon is the Chairman of British friend of Vanuatu. Mr Aitip departed London 3pm British time to return to Vanuatu.

For Mr Aitip, the highlight of the trip was seeing and hearing the profile that the Vanuatu Diabetic Retinopathy programme has in the commonwealth. This is due to the Trust’s input; he was extremely proud of the achievements that has been noted. In the publication, the Trust has recently released, “Lasting Legacy” Vanuatu was again represented with three pages of content. Aitip was presented a copy of this to bring with him to be kept in the Vanuatu Eye Centre.

The challenge now is to continue managing and growing the Diabetic Retinopathy Program further, to promote great eye care and prevent loss of vision for the people of Vanuatu.

Summary in Brief of DR (Diabetic Retinopathy) funded by the Queen Diamond Jubilee Trust Fund.

Between 2015 – 2019 the Queen Diamond Trust has:

• Provided scholarship sponsorship for Dr Kasso Johnson trained and graduated with masters in ophthalmology now the solely Ni Vanuatu ophthalmologist. [Between 2015-2018]

• Provided DR training to More than 80 Health Workers to screen, Detect and refer Diabetic Retinopathy patients in a timely manner for care

• Provide Eye Equipment in the newly opened Vanuatu Eye center to Detect, treat and manage Diabetic Retinopathy besides other eye conditions.

• Development of Diabetic Retinopathy Flip Chart

• Development of DR brochures

From January to December 2020

• More DR training of Health workers to be conducted

• Reprint of Flip Charts and Brochures to Meet Ministry of Health Vanuatu to fight NCD and its complications in every affected individual.

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