Author Archives: Gauri Sarjine

Gauri Sarjine

About Gauri Sarjine

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.

Hands on experience at the NNN meetings

Yesterday at the NNN meetings I met Christopher Ogoshi, programme coordinator at CBM’s partners from Nigeria – the Health and Development Support Programme (HANDS). HANDS Nigeria’s main focus are Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) and eye care. Their programmes are implemented in 4 states across Nigeria – Yobe, Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Kano and Jigawa. In 2014 HANDS Nigeria’s ochocerciasis programmes reached over 2.5 million people, and their LF programmes over 9 million.

Christopher Ogoshi

Christopher Ogoshi

Chris and I had a pretty interesting conversation. I was very keen to know the importance of the NNN meetings for organisations on the field and what these findings translate to for their field work. This is what Chris had to say about it:

‘’Meetings such as this one formulate current issues for elimination of NTDs. Our presence here is to be able to get first-hand information about the current situation regarding NTD elimination, as well as the future scenario. There is a lots of new and exciting information here – new avenues for us to be able to know what the current world is doing in NTDs. Sometimes we also have side meetings or informal gatherings to share information, experiences and best practices with other partners. There is a tremendous amount you can learn from people coming from the field- their stories and opinions are of paramount value. These forums allow for more interaction between developed and developing nations, they are an opportunity to know about new methods being employed and how they are succeeding. We also meet important future donors at such meetings. We get to know who is providing funding. We can network amongst each other and see if our methods on the field are corresponding to these global strategies.

Inviting people from the field is important, because your work is for people in poor communities across the globe, so our input and suggestions will make your work even more effective. It is an advantageous give-and-take for everyone involved.

The outcomes of this meeting will be discussed with our field officers- new findings and learnings, better ways to coordinate our work, improved strategies, ways to capitalise our current work and strengthen our projects and situate ourselves vis a vis other NGOs. This will help us plan ahead and modify our strategies if need be. ‘’

The NNN meetings began yesterday, and it’s already clear that the success of NTD contra elimination depends on collaboration amongst various stakeholders- NGOs, UN agencies, governments, DPOs, healthcare professionals etc. Forums like these facilitate meetings and discussions where active partners involved in NTDs worldwide come together to learn and share experiences.

The plenary sessions begin tomorrow where we discuss successes and challenges for NTDs with respect to MDGs and the post-2015 process, paying particular attention to WASH and health systems strengthening. More in the next post!

CBM hosts the NTD NGDO Network annual meeting in Abu Dhabi

I am on my way to Abu Dhabi today to cover the NTD NGDO Network (NNN) meetings (13-16 Sept 2015), hosted this year by CBM, and attended by over 150 member organisations.


A barrier to inclusive development

Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) present a largely hidden burden that affect the most vulnerable and voiceless communities living in poverty and conflict zones. These diseases disproportionately affect children, women and persons with disability and flourish under conditions characterised by poor housing and sanitation, unsafe water, and limited access to health care.

Affecting more than 1 billion people worldwide (that’s one-sixth of the population) NTDs keep individuals and communities rooted in a vicious cycle of poverty, disability and social stigmatisation.

Eye camps and screening for trachoma being carried out in Kenya by CBM

Eye camps and screening for trachoma being carried out in Kenya by CBM

Combatting NTDs

The good news is that eliminating NTDs no longer remains a challenge- many organisations possess the technical and programmatic know-how and skills to do so. Indeed, the world has seen some wonderful achievements in the past few years – for example the elimination of blinding trachoma from countries like Morocco, Ghana and Iran. Just last year Ecuador was declared free of onchocerciasis (river blindness) by the WHO.

Strong ownership and leadership is being shown by endemic countries as well – most governments are actively involved in their NTDs initiatives. In fact countries like Bangladesh, the Philippines and India are in charge of their own public health initiatives, financing 85%, 94% and 100% of their NTD programmes respectively.

Forums such as the NTD NGDO Network also provide an active platform where organisations can meet to exchange best practices and formulate concrete, effective and practical strategic actions. This year NNN members will also be asked to sign the Abu Dhabi Declaration to encourage the UN to include a global indicator for NTDs in the Sustainable Development Goal 3 (Target 3.3).

Belaynesu suffered for many years from trachoma before undergoing surgery at a partner hospital in Ethiopia

Belaynesu suffered for many years from trachoma before undergoing surgery at a partner hospital in Ethiopia

CBM’s work with NTDs

CBM has been combating NTDs in over 25 countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia for over 20 years. In 2014 CBM-supported programmes treated over 31 million patients affected by NTDs. Additionally we are also part of The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust Trachoma Initiative to tackle blinding trachoma in 11 Commonwealth countries by 2019. CBM is an implementing partner in Kenya, Malawi and Uganda. Have a look at our CBM NTD Report 2015 for more information about our work with NTDs.

School children in Samburu Kenya participating in an education campaign to prevent trachoma infection

School children in Samburu Kenya participating in an education campaign to prevent trachoma infection


In the words of Ethiopia’s minister of health Kesetebirhan Admasu “NTDs are not only a health agenda, but a development agenda too, for which the poor pay the highest price.” We at CBM strongly believe that through international partnerships and alliances, coordinated response and consistent research, NTDs around the world can be eliminated, and that the epidemic of global NTDs can indeed be ended by 2030.


Stay tuned for more updates on the NNN meetings on the CBM website, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for all the latest news!


Overcoming barriers to live independently in the community

Article 19 of the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) refers to the right to living independently and being included in the community. Today’s side-event at the Conference of State Parties (COSP) of the CRPD was a lively discussion between representatives of various State Parties and other civil society organisations on the right of persons with disabilities to equality and inclusion within their communities and the society.

Community Based Inclusion

Independent living, inclusion in the community and having access to services and facilities are a priority to all persons with disabilities. There are many organisations working very hard to act against the devastating isolation and loss of control of persons with disabilities over their own lives. Large scale mental institutions have created, maintained and perpetrated this devastating isolation. National governments and international human rights agencies must provide means and mechanisms to give persons with disabilities the opportunity to choose where they live and with whom, as well as full access and control over community services and facilities. This is known as ‘Community Based Inclusion’– a new concept introduced by the WHO, which will soon be replacing the term ‘Community Based Rehabilitation’. State governments along with civil society organisations, NGOs and other stakeholders must take the responsibility to implement Community Based Inclusion. Community Based Inclusion needs to target a range of domains of life- not just health, education and rehabilitation, but also aspects of acquiring livelihood through employment, social protection, securing personal assistance and hence creating full and fair participation in the community. Inclusion also means empowerment- empowering persons with disabilities to become active members of the society and reach their full potential.


Madhushree (in pink) is affected by autism. Under the Chamkol CBR programme in India, she and her mother are part of health, well-being, development and pre-school programmes.

Madhushree (in pink) is affected by autism. Under the Chamkol CBR programme in India, she and her mother are part of health, well-being, development and pre-school programmes.

Importance of collecting data

Given that there is a lack of disaggregated data on persons with disabilities (according to gender, age and disability), indicators need to be developed to monitor the impact of community based inclusion on the lives of persons with disabilities. It goes without saying that these indicators must be, in turn, in line with the indicators for the CRPD and those of the SDGs, which calls for collaboration and cooperation at all levels between different ministries and governments, UN agencies, the civil society and funding bodies.

What about support to families of persons with disabilities?

Research has shown that a vast majority of persons with disabilities live with their families, and neither the individual with the disability nor his/her family receives much support. Support is provided only when the person with the disability leaves home and checks into an institution. Poor persons with disabilities are often accused of double dipping and are penalized for receiving money both for being poor, as well as for having a disability. But most people tend to forget that there is a link between poverty and disability that creates a vicious never-ending cycle.

The costs of support to families are never recognised. When there is a person with a disability within the family, one family member stays at home to provide 24-7 care. There can be additional costs of childcare all throughout life. Special equipment and food might be needed, which can be very costly. Difficult choices have to be made- does the family income go towards supporting the family, or the person with a disability?

Hence financial assistance is required for support and services for the individual as well as the family. Building social capital and investing in the transformation of the community to make sure that community support is available are important steps to ensure inclusion and equality of persons with disabilities.

Human rights of independent living, autonomy, equality and inclusion are aspiration we all share, but action must follow aspiration.


Civil Society Global Forum – Realising an Inclusive Post-2015 Development Agenda

Yesterday I attended the annual Civil Society Global Forum 2015 (CSGF) that took place at the UN headquarters in New York. This forum is a space where Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs) and other relevant stakeholders meet annually to discuss gaps, opportunities and challenges faced by persons with disabilities at a global level.

During the day-long forum particular emphasis was given to forging partnerships, most-at-risk groups such as women and girls with disabilities especially during humanitarian disasters, and youth with disabilities.

CBM presents on the Sendai Framework

Valerie Scherrer presenting at the CSGF

Valerie Scherrer presenting at the CSGF

Valerie Scherrer, Director of CBM’s Emergency Response Unit, spoke about successful multilateral partnerships that led to the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR). She highlighted 3 main elements of the framework-

  • Persons with disability are key stakeholders in development and humanitarian processes
  • Recognition of the importance of including universal design and accessibility in DRR and
  • Key contribution of persons with disabilities in all sectors of life in different countries

Emphasizing the positive nature of the Sendai framework especially for disaster and crisis, Valerie also said that such initiatives must become a model to inform policy and framework development.

Don’t let our voices drown!

Rachel Kachaje

Rachel Kachaje

One of my favorite speakers so far is Rachel Kachaje. The former Minister of Disability and Elderly Affairs in Malawi, she is now a representative of Disabled Women in Africa.

Rachel’s impassioned speech focussed on women and girls with disabilities in Africa. She said, “In Africa, our voices are defined by the number of children we produce. As a disabled woman, you are not worthy of marriage. Exploitation, violence and abuse against women and girls with disabilities are on the rise, but no one is listening to our voices. We are not taken seriously. This is why education is a priority. When a girl child is educated, she is empowered; she can speak up and be heard. If children with disabilities remain uneducated, they become disempowered, trapped within poverty and disability and exposed to abuse and violence. When woman is educated, she can take leadership positions. “

Voice of the youth

It was heartening to see youth with disabilities from Palestine, India, Guyana, Kyrgystan and Panama share their personal experiences and hopes for the future. Main issues highlighted by them were unemployment, lack of meaningful education opportunities and financial assistance. I found Shatha Abu Srour’s personal trajectory quite moving. She is a young blind woman from Palestine and spoke about the difficult in accessing resources in the current political, economic and social scenario in the Arab world right now. She said it is almost impossible to talk about disability in the current context, when citizens are missing the basic needs as human beings and are unable to live in dignity and freedom. In such a situation disability is often completely forgotten.


The forum was a great space to discuss and promote dialogue between various stakeholders of the disability movement. It also laid the ground for the 8th session of the Conference of State Parties to the CRPD which began today (9 June 2015). More on that in the next post!