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World Report on Disability

CBM welcomes World Report on Disability

A young African girl, using crutches, is helped up steps by able-bodied children
Yasmina is five years old. She is part of a CBR (Community Based Rehabilitation) programme run by CBM partner PRAHN in Niger, and is in grade one, with her friends, at her local primary school. Yasmina wants to be a teacher when she grows up.

CBM welcomes the first ever World Report on Disability, launched at the United Nations in New York on 9 June 2011.

The report presents evidence that previous figures underestimated global prevalence of disability - it says that one billion people experience disability worldwide. It regularly quotes persons with disabilities, emphasising the need for their voices to be heard, and its conclusions, especially regarding the world's poorest countries, strongly reinforce the need for - and worth of - CBM's work.

An historic occasion, at a critical time

On June 9th the World Health Organisation, together with the World Bank, launched the first ever World Report on Disability (WRD).

This is an historic occasion. The report will focus global attention on persons with disabilities all over the world, and it concentrates on the situation of persons with disabilities in the poorest communities.

It also comes at a critical time; 150 countries have now signed the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). These, and other governments, are in the process of planning the implementation of this convention, and the WRD will help with this; it provides strong evidence of the need to make rapid progress to equalise rights and opportunities for persons with disabilities.

Exclusion and discrimination - barriers to independence

The World Report on Disability - which CBM supported the development of - is based on the best scientific evidence, and draws on the knowledge of 380 experts across the globe.
It tells us that persons with disabilities globally face:
  • Unemployment: global figures show employment rates are low with 1 in 2 men and 4 in 5 women with disability being unemployed
  • Poverty: persons with disabilities and their families experience higher rates of food insecurity, poor housing, lack of access to safe water and sanitation, and inadequate access to health care
  • Poor educational attainment: even in countries with high enrolment rates, children with disabilities are often excluded; children with sensory or intellectual disabilities face even greater exclusion than children with physical disability.
  • Poor health outcomes and a higher risk of exposure to violence.

One billion people globally experience disability

The World Report on Disability presents evidence that there are one billion people in the world experiencing disability – 1 in 7 of the world’s population – and that the numbers are rising, and will continue to rise.

Personal video stories - What's disability to me?

Faustina Urassa works in Tanzania, on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro, providing support for people with spinal cord injuries.

In her video, she talks about the importance of wheelchairs, she explains why she loves her work, and she retorts "What's disability to you?"
The fact remains that people with disabilities are often as invisible in research as they are in society.

In the World Report, their perspectives are used a starting point for each topic, and these videos - produced by the WHO and the World Bank and partly financed by CBM - allow individuals to voice their thoughts and feelings:

Marriage for women with disabilities in Nigeria - Patience Ogolo

African woman in a wheelchair; she looks independent and in control of her life ©CBM
Patience Ogolo

Marriage for women with disabilities in Nigeria

When a child is born into a family and she is a girl, the tendency is that she is going to get married some day. From a young age, she is groomed and taught the importance of taking care of herself and the home in preparation of her marriage in the future.

As a young woman the expectation is that someday she will get married and have her own home and children to take care of and be part of all her life. In Africa - and Nigeria in particular - a woman without a man is incomplete and when a woman is married, she is accorded all the respect because she has a man’s name attached to hers.

A woman with disabilities is not that lucky, because society still has that strong belief that she is not good enough to be married or have children of her own.  Often they have hidden relationships - which the men prefer because they do not want to be seen around with a disabled woman either by their friends, families or neighbours, and because there is 'something different' between a disabled woman and other women which is not acceptable to the society. Even if a man wants to marry a woman with a disability, the decision of the family stands because the role of the family in Nigeria in terms of marriage is very strong, and the man can hardly make such decision alone without the backing of his family.

Marriage in Africa is not just about companionship, sexual attraction and love, but is the basis of the African social security system. No marriage means no children, which also means nobody to look after you when you are sick or old, this no marriage leads not only to livelihood but insecurity.

Most of the women with disability who are married are either married to disabled men or very few are married to non disabled men on divine calling. The Nigeria society believes that when a woman is living with a disability, she is affected by a serious ailment or disease and that people are not allowed to be associated with women with disabilities.

Disabled women are human beings and should be treated as such. It is very important that they are first seen as women before their disability, but in our society the reverse is the case.  A man once said to me “What do I need a woman who is disabled for? When I marry a disabled woman it’s the end of my life because she can’t bear or raise children, take care of her home, go to the market. I can even go as far as to say how can I even introduce her to my friends and family? I am incomplete by marrying a woman who is disabled.”

When a society believes that marrying a person with disability or woman with disability in particular is abnormal, it is a very big problem. However it is my hope that with the ongoing advocacy and awareness creation programmes about disability issues by all, including women with disabilities themselves, DPOs and other organisations who have knowledge of disability, this is an avenue where the entire society will be sensitised on issues like this, which is mostly needed to change the attitude of people in the country.

Women with disabilities should not be considered as a problem but rather they are human beings first and then as such should not be considered as ‘not good for marriage’ instead they should be given a chance just like every other woman. A woman’s beauty should not only be seen from her physical features but rather from within, when  societal attitude is changed towards this direction only then can women with disabilities have a better chance of getting married.

Moral duty to remove barriers and unlock potential

Professor Stephen W Hawking ©Stewart Cohen
"We have a moral duty to remove the barriers to participation, and to invest sufficient funding and expertise to unlock the vast potential of people with disabilities.

"Governments throughout the world can no longer overlook the hundreds of millions of people with disabilities who are denied access to health, rehabilitation, support, education and employment, and never get the chance to shine."
Professor Stephen W. Hawking

CBM moving forward with the World Report on Disability

The World Report presents powerful evidence supporting the need for CBM’s work. Using its recommendations, we will continue, with our partners, to promote the rights and improve the quality of life of persons with disabilities.

In particular we will reinforce actions recommended in the report to ensure that government and other development stakeholders:
  • Enable access to all mainstream policies, systems and services. This includes removing barriers to all public services like health, education, employment, social services. It requires proactive policy, legislative reform and universal design, in addition to specific supports.
  • Invest in specific programmes and services for people with disabilities. In addition to mainstreaming, many people with disabilities benefit from specific services, such as rehabilitation, support services, or training. Rehabilitation, including availability of assistive technology such as wheelchairs or hearing aids, increases participation.
  • Adopt a national disability strategy and plan of action. The strategy sets out a comprehensive and long term vision for improving the well-being of persons with disabilities, covering both mainstreaming and specific services. An action plan needs to specify what will be done in the short and medium term, who is responsible, how the strategy is coordinated and what the timelines are. It needs to be multisectoral with a firm monitoring system in place.
  • Involve people with disabilities in all matters pertaining to them and their communities. Persons with disabilities often have unique insights about their disability, and their situation. In formulating and implementing policies, laws, and services, people with disabilities should be consulted and actively involved. Disabled people’s organisations may need capacity building and support to empower people with disabilities and advocate for their needs.
  • Improve human resource capacity to support inclusion. This includes building capacity of all cadres of health, rehabilitation, education, vocational training, social services on disability; but also taking action to bridge the significant gaps that exist in certain professions, like special educators, sign translators and rehabilitation workers.
  • Provide adequate funding and improve affordability of public services. This includes funding to ensure adequate coverage and quality of services, and addressing access - ensuring that measures are developed to allow persons with disabilities to access services, both through safety net systems and expanding social health insurance.
  • Increase public awareness and understanding of disability. Mutual understanding contributes to an inclusive society. Therefore it is vital to improve public understanding of disability, confront negative perceptions, and represent disability fairly.
  • Improve disability data collection. Internationally, methodologies for collecting data on people with disabilities need to be developed, tested cross-culturally, and applied consistently.
  • Strengthen and support research on disability. Research is essential for increasing public understanding about disability issues, informing disability policy and programmes, and efficiently allocating resources.

Examples of CBM's work, with partners, to make the world more inclusive

CBM in numbers

By providing comprehensive development aid and support to people with disabilities, CBM reached millions of persons in 2017.


Community Based Inclusive Development

CBID is CBM’s approach to enable disability inclusive development on the ground.


I want to become a teacher!

For Yasmina, attending a mainstream primary school leads to optimism


Standing on my own two feet

Ms. Bao, from Kunming in China, is now able to earn a living with her handmade crafts


Rodenson's story

A modern day story of a true hero who saved his sister and sacrificed his dream



From CBM's President

Professor Allen Foster

What's disability to me?

Faustina works for KAZI in Moshi, Tanzania. She is a wheelchair user, and here she explains what disability means to her.


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