During the press tour, OT spoke to Rob Walters, chair of Orbis Africa, about the work of the Flying Eye Hospital, as well as the charity itself.
The third-generation Flying Eye Hospital launched in July last year, with its first mission to China following shortly afterwards. This year it will providing treatment and training programmes in Vietnam, Cameroon and Bangladesh.
The Flying Eye Hospital is important to Orbis because that is how the charity started, Mr Walters told OT, explaining that when the charity launched in 1982, the concept was for ophthalmologists to take their expertise to developing countries.
Today the aircraft plays a relatively small clinical part in what the charity does, around 10% Mr Walters said. However, it plays a very important role in advocacy, he shared, explaining the plane’s positive impact when it comes to speaking to governments about investing in eye care.
The new aircraft, which was donated by FedEx, took around five years to launch, but it’s been “incredibly successful,” Mr Walters confirmed.
“It’s given us greater reach so that we can fly further for less money and land on many more airfields than we could before,” he added.
It is the first time that the plane has ever landed in the UK and during the trip Orbis launched its new Operation Sight campaign, which highlights how “every minute counts when treating blindness,” the charity emphasised.