Author Archives: David Lewis

David Lewis

About David Lewis

I have had the privilege of working for CBM over more than 20 years. Our work is at times challenging and heartbreaking, but at the same time it is always encouraging and motivating. I am currently seconded from CBM Australia to CBM’s emergency response in the Philippines. The people with disabilities I am meeting in the typhoon area, together with their families and communities are teaching me a great deal about human courage, and also about their faith in God who loves his creation, despite the destruction nature can exert.

Eye health and the environment – why sustainability and inclusivity go hand in hand

David Lewis, CBM Focal Point for Environmental Sustainability, and Kirsty Smith, Chief Executive of CBM UK  on an important opportunity to  promote environmental sustainability in the eye-health sector amid a month of climate disaster.

The need for global responsibility cannot be plainer. Hurricanes in quick succession battering communities in the Caribbean, leaving many homeless and with little help, including people with disabilities. Hurricane Maria followed Harvey and Irma. Now Nate has struck. Sometimes it’s hard to feel optimistic that our efforts do enough, soon enough, to temper the onslaught of extreme weather following decades of en-vironmental damage.

However there is hope and CBM is determined to do our bit to improve the sustain-ability of all of our work. In September we logged in via Skype to Kathmandu to join the launch of an international working group for environmental sustainability, one of our biggest priorities if we are to see global health of the world’s poorest people improve.

The group has   been set up by the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) after a proposal  from member organisations including CBM, Vision 2020 UK, Aravind Eye Care System as well as other interested individuals.

Our aim is to bring together well-researched and creative approaches to strengthen environmental sustainability in eye health organisations around the world.

 

Patients after cataract surgery at Caritas Takeo Eye Hospital, Cambodia. Open, airy verandahs allow for air movement, keeping the hospital cooler and creating a pleasant environment for patients to wait.

Central to CBM’s mission
Climate change and environmental degradation have a devastating impact on all parts of the world, but this is particularly true for the world’s poorest communities. What drives our determination is knowing people with disabilities and other vulner-able groups are among those most affected on a daily basis, and in every part of their lives.

Health and well being are at risk in polluted and dangerous environments. These communities often lack access to safe water and sanitation, to sustainable food and energy sources. They face increasing risks due to natural and man-made disasters and more often than not find themselves at the back of the relief aid queue.

In terms of  eye health, we know that the communities most susceptible to envi-ronmental degradation carry some of the highest rates of avoidable and permanent blindness.

CBM is acutely aware that climate change is predicted as one of the largest health threats of the 21st century and that health care itself is a large contributor to carbon emissions.  Working closely with high quality eye health services around the world puts CBM in a strong position to draw attention to the essential need to reduce carbon emissions.

 
Why sustainability and inclusivity go hand in hand
Environmental sustainability and inclusion have been at the heart of CBM’s work for many years. We want to improve the environment and at the same time make  sure people with disabilities and those from other marginalised groups participate in environmental programmes as their human right. Thanks to advocacy by CBM and others, the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development Goals agreed by world leaders in September 2015, became much more inclusive.
CBM has in recent years created a resource booklet to help and inspire those seeking to make eye health services, and health and development programmes generally, more environmentally sustainable. It includes case studies, checklists and ideas with input from our  global advisors and partners in the field.  We want to demonstrate the wide ranging actions possible to strengthen environmental sustainability, particularly in the poorest countries, and gather evidence of the effectiveness of CBM’s actions so that we can replicate our most effective interventions elsewhere.  As well as environmental sustainability and inclusion, – this booklet highlights the need for accessibility, gender equality , safe-guarding those at risk, and disaster risk reduction as keys to sound development practice.

 
Case Study, Cambodia
We were delighted to have one of our studies highlighted at the IAPB Council meetings in  Kathmandu, as an effective model  of environmental sustainability which others in the field can learn from, as well as contributing their own ideas.
We are particularly proud of what has been achieved during our partnership with the Caritas Takeo Eye Hospital from 1996 – 2013.
Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in  Asia, with the majority  of the population living in poor  rural areas, with low access to services. Blindness is a key factor  contributing to this poverty.
It was in 2006 when  the chance came  to innovate in all areas of hospital life. The old hospital had to be demolished and all the stake-holders  wanted the new one, from its construction, energy and water supplies, to its cooking equipment and even surgery techniques to be of the lowest impact on the environment possible.  The hospital is proving to be a great model, with ongoing assessment of things which could be improved.
The hospital offers excellent eye care in accessible buildings which like many of the other facilities are above ground to reduce the threat from flooding. The “3 R’s” are used everyday -reduce recycle re-use .

 
Environment Sustainability Work Group – sharing expertise
CBM hopes the Cambodia study will help other IAPB members strengthen  high quality environmental practices and widen inclusivity in their own eye hospitals.

As a result of this and other expertise recognised within CBM, we had the opportunity to be one of the leads in  setting up the Environmental Sustainability Work Group for the IAPB.
Its launch in Kathmandu was a great success with CBM and other IAPB members setting out ambitious plans for innovation and learning, so that the best community eye services can be available while minimising their economic and environmental impact.
We are making progress.  Our determination to put the environment and inclusion at the epi-centre of the fight against poverty and inequality is moving forward.

 

Tomorrow we celebrate World Sight Day – make sure to read about it on our website! Also have a look at our newly released Neglected Tropical Diseases Report 2017.

Community Mental Health services essential after disaster

Just before Christmas I had the privilege of being part of a Community Mental Health assessment in the Typhoon Haiyan zone of the Philippines. The assessment was conducted by Dr Nick Rose, a Senior Psychiatrist from Oxford in the UK and Mr Willy Reyes, CBM’s Mental Health Coordinator in the Philippines.

Four men standing in front of a building doorway

Left to right: Willy Reyes; Dr Henrietta Espanola, Head of Department of Psychiatry, University of Western Visayas State University in Iloilo; Dr Nick Rose; David Lewis, CBM, at a mental health consultation in Estancia.

CBM conducted this assessment because we are keen to work with others in ensuring high quality mental health services are available for communities affected by the typhoon. It is also very important that these same communities grow in their understanding of mental health issues, including opportunities for referral and how everyone can be part of building inclusion for all community members. Continue reading

Typhoon Haiyan – Ageing and Disability Focal Points

I woke up very early this morning and walked along the beachfront at Concepcion, Panay Island. The beautiful, soft, early-morning sunlight created a huge contrast to the destruction which remains after Typhoon Haiyan’s ferocious winds and storm surge ripped through Concepcion. All along the coast, endless piles of debris still lie scattered from destroyed homes, schools, health clinics and other buildings. Continue reading

Typhoon Haiyan: what it would be like to lose everything and have to start again

 

An old man is posing in front of a destructed house. The man is using a crutch.

Henry is 63 years old. He lost everything during Typhoon Haiyan on 8 November 2013.

 

I just turned 60, and I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose everything and have to start again, at this age, or any age. Henry is 63. When Typhoon Haiyan hit his island off the coast of Concepcion in the Philippines, he knew it was going to be bad, but he had not anticipated so much loss.

Continue reading