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International Day of People with Disabilities: Include Us

This post has been written by Elle Spring is an Advocacy and Communications Officer at CBM Australia. Her passion is storytelling for change and she has recently returned from collecting stories of the lived experiences of people with disabilities in Vanuatu.

Globally, one billion people have a disability, and 80 per cent live in developing countries. In developing countries, women comprise three quarters of people with disabilities. Women and girls with disabilities are disproportionately represented and are often the furthest left behind.

To mark International Day of People with Disabilities (IDPD) on 3 December 2017, CBM has created a video to highlight their unique experience, the contributions they have to make, and the importance of including women and girls with disabilities in all development efforts.


Meet Nelly from Vanuatu; a leader, an advocate and the National Coordinator of Vanuatu Disability Promotion and Advocacy Association (VDPA) – the national Disabled People’s Organisation.

Nelly, the National Coordinator of Vanuatu Disability Promotion and Advocacy Association (VDPA)

Nelly, the National Coordinator of Vanuatu Disability Promotion and Advocacy Association (VDPA) ©Erin Johnson/CBM Australia

“I’m happy that I am a woman with disabilities and I am a leader…I’m not only advocating for me, but for my members as well.

However, this is not common. “In Vanuatu, you hardly see women with disabilities leading different organisations. It’s really hard because of the barriers they face.”

Women and girls with disabilities face multiple layers of discrimination; creating barriers which stop them from achieving their full potential.

“Women with disabilities face double, and most times triple discrimination, because they are a woman, and they have a disability, and the abuses they face or the discrimination they face in society.”

“When you come out from your house and someone is staring at you, its discrimination already and you feel like you’re not part of the community – that’s what our women and girls with disabilities are facing in the community.”

Women and girls with disabilities are often hidden away by families, excluded from decision-making – even about their own bodies – and are less likely to attend school than girls without disabilities. In developing countries just 32.9 per cent of girls with disabilities complete primary school.

“Most of our women and girls [with disabilities] have not had education, they are left at home.”

Without education, it makes securing formal employment far more difficult, especially when many women and girls with disabilities are unaware of their rights.

“Most women with disabilities, they are volunteers – they do work without any pay and we always advocate for their rights. If this lady did the same work as a woman without disability, you need to pay her the same amount.”

“Women and girls with disabilities should know their rights. They need to know they have the same rights as anyone else. They have to be empowered and live as anyone else.”

The United Nations (UN) theme for International Day of People with Disabilities this year is: Transformation towards sustainable and resilient society for all. It draws attention to the changes that must be made to ensure the 2030 Agenda – which aims to leave no one behind – can be realised. As former Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki-moon stated:

To be truly transformative, the post-2015 development agenda must prioritise gender equality and women’s empowerment. The world will never realise 100 per cent of its goals if 50 per cent of its people cannot realise their full potential.

Without including women and girls with disabilities in all development efforts, the inclusive world envisioned by the 2030 Agenda cannot be achieved, and women and girls with disabilities will continue to be furthest left behind.

“We need to work towards a society that is inclusive, barrier-free and rights-based for all. Women with disabilities need to become leaders for tomorrow. We are agents of change.”

“If more women with disabilities are taking leadership positions and advocating for the rights of women and girls with disabilities, and all people with disabilities, I believe that we will not leave anyone behind. Include us!”

Fighting Neglected Tropical Diseases: The case for participation and human rights based approaches

This is an excerpt from a blog written by CBM Senior Advisor for Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) – KH Martin Kollmann for the International Coalition for Trachoma Control.

Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are causes and consequences of poverty, disability and marginalization. They disproportionately affect the world’s poorest communities and can have profound physical, mental, social and socioeconomic effects on those who lack the resources for prevention, treatment and care. Thus NTD programs can be viewed as an investment in the poorest and most marginalized communities and a critical step towards reaching the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Have a look at CBM’s Neglected Tropical Diseases Report 2017.

In order to achieve the SDGs we must ask ourselves how to best minimize the adverse effects of NTDs. What measures do we need to put in place to ensure those affected are not sentenced to poverty, marginalization, discrimination or exclusion?

Hint: Key answers lie in participation and human rights based approaches.

The involvement of communities and people affected is not a new concept in primary health care and disease programs. Many international human rights treaties explicitly state that all people have the right and duty to participate individually and collectively in the planning and implementation of their health care. However, the active participation of people affected by NTDs is not always a reality. Human rights based approaches to NTDs emphasize that any interventions should be based on the principles of participation, non-discrimination and accountability.

Treaties and conventions like the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognize and codify the rights of persons who are disabled, women, children, indigenous peoples and other marginalized groups. People with NTDs often fall into several of these mutually overlapping categories, which is why participatory and human rights based approaches are particularly relevant in the design and implementation of our programs and our advocacy work.

NTDs can cause chronic disability and are highly stigmatizing, which often leads to discrimination, marginalization and exclusion. In many countries, two thirds of persons with disabilities are unemployed and those who have jobs often only work part time. This is particularly true for people who experience advanced trachoma, the world’s leading infectious cause of visual impairment and blindness.

Trachoma, like other disabling NTDs, reduces economic productivity and increases social exclusion, which can cause family breakdowns and abandonment. As a result, many women, who are disproportionately affected by the disease, downplay or conceal visual impairment and pain for fear of exclusion or stigmatization. Similarly, other disabling NTDs can lead to severe stigma, associated mental health problems and social exclusion. These social consequences are often described by the affected as the greater disability.

76 year old Musamba (centre), who is blind from Onchocerciasis (River Blindness), receives Mectizan tablets from our project workers in DRC.

76 year old Musamba (centre), who is blind from Onchocerciasis (River Blindness), receives Mectizan tablets from our project workers in DRC.

Participatory and human rights based approaches, such as Disease Management Disability and Inclusion (DMDI), address these often-neglected aspects of NTD work as a crosscutting theme. They are guided by the principal that people and communities affected by NTDs are essential to the success of programs. Having experienced the disease, disability and associated discrimination, people affected by NTDs have a unique voice and perspective, they bring passion to the work and take the programs closer to the communities they are designed to benefit.

Placing persons affected by NTDs at the center of our program work requires a major paradigm shift, which has profound implications on how services are planned, delivered and evaluated. However, examples from the field have shown that when affected people and communities are given ownership to actively plan, implement and evaluate activities, it leads to better outcomes, improves cost-efficiency and enhances sustainability.

Participation and human rights based approaches are particularly relevant for the last mile of NTD elimination. By enhancing the recognition, systematic inclusion and valued participation of affected people and communities, these approaches assist in creating sustainable, comprehensive and inclusive NTD programs that are fully integrated into national health systems.

In 2015, the international community explicitly recognized the importance of NTDs, calling for their end in SDG 3.3. Moreover, through SDG 3.8 the international community reiterated its commitment to the equality and human rights of all people by including universal health coverage as a key goal – a principal that lies at the core of our NTD work. With over one billion of the world’s people affected by NTDs, it is clear that upholding these human rights will have to happen in a sustained and participatory approach if we are to achieve our goals with no one left behind. The NTD community should be at the forefront of making this a reality.

New Resolution for Prevention of Deafness and Hearing Loss approved

This blog has been written by Dr Diego Santana-Hernández – CBM Global Advisor for Ear and Hearing Care

This 70th World Health Assembly (WHA) which has just taken place in Geneva, Switzerland, from 22nd to 31st May 2017, has become very important for CBM, particularly for the area of work of Ear and Hearing Care (EHC), because a new Resolution for Prevention of Deafness and Hearing Loss has been presented and adopted (approved) by the Assembly. A new WHA resolution approved by WHO Member States is a very strong tool for advocacy before Ministries of Health all over the world, including those countries where CBM works, because it is a public strategic document which their own governments have approved alongside all members of WHO.

Since 2015, CBM has been involved in this long advocacy process leading up to the present stage of progress. Firstly by contributing to raise awareness about the need of a new resolution among WHO Member States. Then by working alongside them in the process of developing this initiative and reviewing the draft document. Later on through advocacy with members of the WHO Executive Board, who approved the draft Resolution in May 2016. And finally, by lobbying with Ministries of Health across the world, requesting their support and endorsement of the resolution at this year’s WHA. This process has been mainly carried out by CBM advisors in EHC, through individual high level meetings during advisory field visits, at regional fora facilitated in collaboration with WHO regional offices, and also at international professional events; by transmitting this important message to technical officers and EHC professionals working with, or alongside, their Governments.

A particularly significant advocacy event took place on 4th and 5th May 2017, led by the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO), co-facilitated with and supported by CBM (IO and LARO): the 3rd Meeting of Eye and Ear care managers at Ministries of Health in Latin America and the Caribbean. This event brought together 65 delegates with representatives from Ministries of Health of 26 different countries in the Americas. This was an excellent opportunity to directly interact in a high level forum with managers and technical officers for their Governments. They were updated on the progress of the WHO proceedings towards the resolution for Prevention of Deafness and Hearing Loss, and we encouraged that as many WHO Member States as possible would support its adoption during the 70th WHA in May 2017.

The Resolution for Prevention of Deafness and Hearing Loss was included under Point 15.8 of the 70th WHA agenda, and adopted by Committee B on Tuesday 30th May 2017. CBM, as a non-State actor in official relations with WHO, was allowed to make a statement which can be accessed through this WHO web-link.

Certainly, another example that “Together we can do more”

CBM a key sponsor and program partner of IAPB General Assembly

CBM is a key sponsor of the IAPB’s 10th General Assembly (10GA) from 27-30 October 2016 which will be held in Durban, South Africa. The 10GA is the biggest event in the 2016 eye health calendar and will bring together global experts in eye health, eye health institutions, NGOs, networks and government representatives to discuss public health issues related to blindness and visual impairment. With the theme “Stronger Together”, IAPB aims to build and strengthen partnerships and ensure a united voice.

The following blog is written by Dr. Babar Qureshi, CBM Director for Neglected Tropical Diseases on his part in CBM’s upcoming course, ‘Inclusion Made Easy in Health Programmes’, that focuses on disability inclusive practices for eye care.

Grarbet Tehadiso Mahber (GTM) -Trachoma Prevention Control Programm, P 3014 Ethiopia Trachoma outreach in Didamidore (Mareko district). Chaltu Egedo (27) and her daughter Jemanesh (2) have a trachoma infection. Ophthalmologe Dr. Lelissa Munduma examing their eyes.

Grarbet Tehadiso Mahber (GTM) -Trachoma Prevention Control Programm, P 3014 Ethiopia
Trachoma outreach in Didamidore (Mareko district). Chaltu Egedo (27) and her daughter Jemanesh (2) have a trachoma infection. Ophthalmologe Dr. Lelissa Munduma examing their eyes.

According to global figures, people with disability, including those with vision impairment, make up 20% of the world’s poorest and most marginalised people. It is therefore essential that everyone working in eye health, including planners, providers, evaluators and funders, understand key steps they can take at their own level, to build inclusion for all people.

Since 2009, CBM has been working on approaches to Inclusive Eye Health (IEH) with two key objectives:

  • People with all disabilities access eye health services
  • People with permanent vision loss access wider opportunities, i.e. in all areas of health care, rehabilitation, education, livelihoods, social inclusion, and empowerment

In this context, CBM established pilot projects in inclusive eye health in Cambodia, Vietnam and Pakistan in 2009-10. Subsequently, pilots were run in India, Indonesia and Sierra Leone. CBM is now working with a range of other countries to strengthen inclusive practices in eye health. In 2011, CBM published its first Inclusive Eye Health manual, and an updated version followed in 2014.

CBM recently commissioned a study to identify good practice, and evidence of strengths and weaknesses in the Pakistan IEH pilot, which was implemented in Charsadda district, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) Province, through CBM’s partner CHEF International. This programme worked with 4 Basic Health Units at the primary level, one district hospital at the secondary level as well as a number of local schools. It was implemented in the context of the 2010 floods which had caused significant damage to the physical infrastructure of the local partners.

The key strengths identified in the study were:

  • Greater accessibility of eye health services
  • A new national government focus on inclusive eye health and integration into government systems
  • The creation of a sustainable referral system
  • Greater community awareness of services and a change in community perceptions of people with disabilities

The key areas for improvement identified were:

  • Better analysis of data needed
  • Further improvements to accessibility and referral systems needed
  • Further improvements for awareness within the community, particularly in terms of policies and referral services, needed

So, don’t miss CBM’s course on 29 October, to hear about the details of this study, and CBM’s wider work in Inclusive Eye Health.

CBM NTD Report 2016:
More than 1 billion people – one-sixth of the world’s population – are affected by one or more neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), and another 2 billion people are at risk, mainly in the tropics and sub-tropics. Take a look at our Neglected Tropical Diseases Report 2016 for more information about our work with NTDs.

Inclusive eye health:
‘Inclusion Made Easy in Eye Health Programs’ is designed for program staff in international development organisations. It is a practical guide on how to ensure eye-health programs are disability-inclusive. It is accompanied by a handy brochure/ poster with 10 tips for getting started.

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