Author Archives: CBM editor

About CBM editor

Gauri is part of the communications team at CBM International. Her tasks include reporting on high-level events attended by CBM staff. Gauri is passionate about international development, especially issues regarding women empowerment. She holds two Masters and is fluent in 6 languages.

Mitigating barriers in comprehensive eye care

In our 3rd and last piece for our blog series on the 10th IAPB General Assembly (10GA), Dr. Manfred Moerchen (Regional Advisor for Inclusive Eye Health in the Philippines) talks about mitigating barriers in comprehensive eye care.

Blindness and low vision have been identified as an important global cause of the years lived with disability, and empowerment of people who are blind or have low vision is one of the key cross-cutting principles of the WHO Global Action Plan 2014-2019 (“Universal Eye Health”). As only 2% of people in lower income countries have access to basic services and rehabilitation, CBM strives to improve the access for everybody, including people with all types of disabilities, to eye health programmes and to make sure that people with unavoidable blindness and visual impairment have access to low vision services and rehabilitation.

8 year old May has cataract in both her eyes and is nearly blind. She attends an inclusive school in the Philippines. Here she is being examined by Dr. Manfred Moerchen the day before her surgery.

8 year old May has cataract in both her eyes and is nearly blind. She attends an inclusive school in the Philippines. Here she is being examined by Dr. Manfred Moerchen the day before her surgery.

I was trained as an ophthalmologist in the nineties at a tertiary eye hospital in Germany, equipped with all types of state-of-the art expensive equipment. One day, when celebrating World Sight Day, we invited a self-help group of patients with unavoidable visual impairment. They were impressed by the technical possibilities but told us that it was difficult to orientate in the eye department as the building had obviously not been designed to facilitate access for people with visual impairment.

 

As an ophthalmologist, I was ashamed that even in one of the richest countries in the world we failed to address the needs of patients who needed assistance beyond purely medical treatment.

It strikes me that 15 years later, we still struggle with the same barriers to a holistic eye health service. Eye hospitals are designed without involving people with disabilities in planning. Access to phaco surgery is now often easier than access to low vision devices and people whose sight cannot be restored are constantly not referred to rehabilitation. Again, much more work is needed to mitigate barriers for people with additional impairments: How do we communicate with a cataract patient who is hearing impaired? Do we make sure that patients with Retinitis Pigmentosa and Usher Syndrome are referred to a hearing test? How do we communicate with a patient with Down Syndrome and refractive error?

The GA course will inform 10GA delegates about CBM’s approach to improve disability inclusive practices for strengthening comprehensive eye care with practical examples from eye health projects in Africa and Asia. For instance, delegates will gain insight into how a tertiary eye hospital can improve inclusive practices by employing people with visual impairment, by involving people with all types of disability in improving physical accessibility and by collaborating with Disability People Organizations in mass screening for cataract in the communities.

The 10GA has been an excellent opportunity to share experiences, discuss opportunities and challenges and elaborate on further steps. Practical examples have proven that this is possible, even for programmes with limited financial budget! We have also discussed the challenging aspect of monitoring inclusion to make sure that patients with disabilities are represented in our data and how that might contribute to Universal Eye Health. The goal to further reduce blindness and visual impairment will not be possible if everybody does not have an equal chance to access services.

CBM signs MoU with WHO at the 10GA

We’ve just signed an ambitious Memorandum of Understanding with the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Africa to eliminate Neglected Tropical Diseases (#NTDs). Read more on the website.

Regional Director of the WHO Regional Office for Africa (AFRO), Dr. M. R. Moeti (right) shakes hands with the Chairman of CBM International, Dr. R. Brockhaus (left) after signing the MoU. In the background is Ms. Kirsty Smith, CEO of CBM UK and Dr. Babar Qureshi, Director for NTDs.

Regional Director of the WHO Regional Office for Africa (AFRO), Dr. M. R. Moeti (right) shakes hands with the Chairman of CBM International, Dr. R. Brockhaus (left) after signing the MoU. In the background is Ms. Kirsty Smith, CEO of CBM UK and Dr. Babar Qureshi, Director for NTDs.

Connect with us and know more

Follow live coverage of the IAPB GA on the CBM website, Facebook and Twitter as well as the blog.

Inclusive eye health for all

Continuing our blog series for the 10th IAPB General Assembly (10GA), David Lewis OAM, Strategic Programmes Director, CBM Australia, writes about CBM’s experiences on inclusive eye health over the years.

I was sad to note the passing of a great pioneer of Community Ophthalmology in Asia, Professor Kazuichi Konyama, in June 2016. At VISION 2020’s launch in Vietnam in 2004, I recall him emphasising, ‘Every human being on the planet has the right to access quality eye health services’.

I was reminded of my work with CBM in West Africa in the 1990s. Working there was a great privilege, and yet, could also be very discouraging. Alongside some wonderful outcomes, we also encountered enormous need which we could not meet, and saw the destruction of vital services by the war in Sierra Leone.

David Lewis with a small patient in Niger in 2009.

David Lewis with a small patient in Niger in 2009.

Meeting Mariama, a young mother with bi-lateral cataracts in a remote Sierra Leonean village in 1992 was a profound experience for me. Mariama had not only developed cataracts in her mid-thirties and been totally blind for three years; she had also been profoundly deaf since she was a small child. We of course ensured that Mariama received cataract surgery, but her life could have turned out very differently. Without CBM’s partner community programme and eye hospital, Mariama may never have accessed the services she needed.  It is experiences like these, which make all of us connected with IAPB strive for a world where the most marginalised people can access quality services: This is both their need and their right.

Mariama’s condition is not unique; one billion people in the world– 15% of the world’s population—live with disability, including vision impairment. In 2009, CBM began a journey in Inclusive Eye Health. We tested approaches focused on strengthening good existing work in Vietnam, Cambodia, Pakistan, Indonesia and other countries.

By 2014, we were ready to share some of what we had learnt about inclusive practices with our partners and friends around the world. CBM launched Inclusion Made Easy in Eye Health Programmes, co-branded with IAPB and 13 other member agencies.

The guide helps address two key issues for people with disability:

  • How to make eye care services accessible and inclusive
  • How to assist people with permanent vision loss

In this context, CBM is proud to sponsor the GA course: ‘Inclusion Made Easy in Eye Health Programmes’. The course will explore up to date case studies from committed partners and IAPB member agencies around the world. We will consider a range of factors causing marginalisation, including disability, gender, age, ethnicity, religious minority, poverty, geographic isolation, access to education, and also how these factors intersect. Importantly, the course will bring practical solutions and discussions to strengthening inclusive practice in eye health programmes.

Please do attend the course, so we can strengthen our approaches together.

Connect with us and know more

Follow live coverage of the IAPB GA on the CBM website, Facebook and Twitter as well as the blog.
 

The fourth summit of the Movement for Global Mental Health in Mumbai

The Movement for Global Mental Health was founded in 2008 with the aim of mobilising interested actors in a call for human rights for people with psychosocial disabilities, and access to good quality and affordable treatment, especially in the poorer parts of the world.  Since then, the Movement has held a summit every 2 years (previously in Athens, Cape Town and Bangkok) where members have come together to share, celebrate, and plan.

The membership of the Movement is diverse, taking in service users, care providers of all sorts, academics, and others.  The main method of communicating and networking is through a website; www.globalmentalhealth.org ; a good route to join the Movement!

The exciting decision was taken for this year’s summit in India was to focus on service users as a unique and powerful group within the Movement’s membership.  The theme was ‘Nothing about us without us’, and the event was organised by users and their organisations (in India), and had a programme largely devoted to contributions by people with psychosocial disabilities.

Panel Discussion "Nothing About Us Without Us".

Panel Discussion “Nothing about us without us”.

One of the refreshing differences from a typical conference was that there was a larger emphasis on creativity and expression than on academic or scientific activities (though there was scientific content as well).  For two days, we were privileged to hear powerful and inspiring stories from the lives of people with psychosocial disabilities, and those who live and work with them. We watched, and often joined in with, dance, art, drama and provocative discussions.

Forum Theatre by The Banyan

Forum Theatre by The Banyan

The conference organisers The Banyan and Public Health Foundation of India did a wonderful job of welcoming us, with the student volunteers at the venue (the Tata Institute of  Social Sciences) even giving up their own rooms for delegates. There was a positive atmosphere, and a strong sense of purpose, which was translated into the decision taken at the end of the summit to form a local group affiliated to the Global Movement for activities in South Asia.

CBM is proud to have been associated with the Movement since its inception, and will continue to share its aim of providing a strong voice for people with psychosocial disabilities and others committed to realisation of human rights for all.

 

 

Sierra Leone celebrates Dignity!

This post is written by Carmen Valle – a Mental Health Specialist based in Sierra Leone.

 

Once more, we’ve celebrated World Mental Health Day in Sierra Leone.

This year felt special, as during October 2014 we couldn’t truly celebrate with as many activities as we wanted to. Ebola had made it impossible.

We were all in high spirit and fully supportive during Saturday’s events. I played my little role. And while seating there, surrounded by champions of Mental Health in the country I couldn’t stop thinking…. “We’ve done so much!”

Many of the special moments that were lived on Saturday could have not been a reality if it hadn’t been for Enabling Access to Mental Health (EAMH) and the other programmes in mental health that CBM has supported in Sierra Leone.

Members of the high table. Right to left: Director of Child Protection at MSWGCA; Secretary of Association of Service Users; CBM’s Mental Health Specialist; Chairman of the MH Coalition; Focal Person for MH at MoHS; Chief Nursing Officer; Deputy Minister of Health and Sanitation; Chairman of National Commission for Persons with Disability

Members of the high table. Right to left: Director of Child Protection at MSWGCA; Secretary of Association of Service Users; CBM’s Mental Health Specialist; Chairman of the MH Coalition; Focal Person for MH at MoHS; Chief Nursing Officer; Deputy Minister of Health and Sanitation; Chairman of National Commission for Persons with Disability

One of those special moments was the recognition of the 20 Mental Health Nurses deployed all across the country in the first ever decentralization of mental health services by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation. These are the nurses that for the past 4 years EAMH has trained and supervised, providing continuous support and capacity building. In one of the most emotive moments of the event, five of those nurses received from the Ministry of Health and Sanitation certificates of merit in recognition of their outstanding performance during 2015. CBM has also contributed to the creation of these District Mental Health Units.

The 20 Mental Health Nurses with some of the members of the high table

The 20 Mental Health Nurses with some of the members of the high table

Another very special moment was the speech of Mr Kakay, secretary of the first ever Association of Service Users of Sierra Leone, created by members of the Mental Health Coalition, which is an outcome of EAMH itself. In an event that has the theme of Dignity in Mental Health, Mr Kaikai raised his voice and eloquently expressed what Persons with Psychosocial Disabilities in Sierra Leone want and how they think dignity can be secured. He got a very deserved ovation.

The Deputy Minister of Health and Sanitation also showed his gratitude. He paused in his speech, put the papers down and removed his glasses: “Now, let me tell you something”. He’s not reading any more, he’s speaking out his heart. “ We have to thank Enabling Access to Mental Health so much. They have transformed mental health in Sierra Leone. I want to acknowledge all of them now and express my gratitude”.

The Focal Person for Mental Health at the MoHS, the Chief Nursing Officer, the representative of the Ministry of Social Welfare, the Chairman of the National Commission for Persons with Disability and the Chief Community Health Officer also contributed with statements full of passion, acknowledgement of the work done and commitment to continue doing what still needs to be done. One of those urgent things, as stated by the Deputy Minister, is the review of the Lunacy Act of 1902. The commitment of the Government of Sierra Leone to develop an updated Mental Health Legislation was well established during the event.

The Coordinator of EAMH at the MH Coalition and the Mental Health Specialist, happy to celebrate

The Coordinator of EAMH at the MH Coalition and the Mental Health Specialist, happy to celebrate

By the end of the celebration all attendees committed to dignity. Not as a theme for the day, but as a personal vow that everyone should continuously remember, in every interaction, at all moments.

Happy World Mental Health Day!!