CBM's programmes in 2023 focused on global disability initiatives, health services in Pakistan and Kenya and successes in eradicating trachoma.
The number of persons with disabilities continues to rise amid population changes and health emergencies, including infectious disease outbreaks, natural disasters, and conflicts. In March this year, the WHO reported in its report – Global Report on Health Equity for Persons with Disabilities – that an estimated 1.3 billion people – or 1 in 6 people worldwide – have a significant disability. This is more than the 1 billion reported in the World Report on Disability in 2011.
Post-COVID conditions have pushed many people into new realms of disability, including exacerbating pre-existing health conditions and significantly impacting mental health. The ongoing wars, particularly in Ukraine and the Middle East, have led to more disabilities.
Rising inflation rates have widened the gap for persons with disabilities, especially in low- and middle-income countries where the majority live. 2023 is a stark reminder of the growing challenges and the urgent need for inclusive and effective responses to the diverse needs of the most vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, in health, education, humanitarian response, community services, labour and decision-making.
While technological and health innovations promise improved accessibility and quality of life, this promise remains unfulfilled for many, especially in poorer regions where such advances are more of a dream than a reality.
As we stand on the cusp of 2023, the question arises: will we as a global community rise to the challenge of not just listening, but actively responding to these needs in the new year?
CBM collaborates with Peek Vision to deliver vital eye health services in remote areas of Pakistan and Kenya. This has impacted the lives of many like Muhammad, a Pakistani truck driver, who benefited from a quick roadside eye test and glasses to improve his work and safety. In Kenya, the Vision Impact Project is integrating quality eye care into millions of lives.
In Cameroon, our project partners regularly deploy mobile clinic teams to ensure that help reaches people in remote areas to combat glaucoma. This has enabled thousands of surgeries and emphasising the importance of early detection in preventing blindness.
CBM's approach goes beyond treatment, empowering people to lay the foundation for sustainable eye health systems and have a far-reaching impact on communities. In India, the collaboration with CBM has led to the establishment of 50 vision centres that are revolutionising primary eye care in rural areas and focusing on inclusion. The project has a wide reach and aims to train thousands of people in eye care and significantly reduce the incidence of common eye diseases.
This year, CBM also collaborated with WHO to develop a new "Primary Ear and Hearing Care Training Manual" as part of a strategy to address the growing global challenge of hearing loss and related disabilities.
In 2023, the WHO reported a worldwide decline in trachoma, to 115.7 million people. CBM's initiatives have made a decisive contribution to the eradication of trachoma as a public health problem in 17 countries - proof of CBM's commitment to the fight against the blinding disease. By January 2023, CBM provided the 600 millionth treatment for neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Dr Babar Qureshi administered the preventive dose to Surayya, a young girl in Jigawa, Nigeria.
Individual stories like that of Nanye, an Ethiopian musician who battled trachoma, were part of 2023's successes. CBM's efforts enabled her to receive basic medical care and highlighted the impact of NTDs on women, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. Here, community workers and partnerships with governments are crucial in combating diseases such as river blindness and trachoma, which are prevalent in this region.
A Mother's Fight Against a Blinding Disease in Sub-Saharan Africa
Did you know that Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) like trachoma affect women the most? Learn more about the untold stories of women like Naye who endure the burden of NTDs.
Read her story
CBM has published a report on the localisation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which emphasises the need to implement the Convention at local level so that it has a positive impact on persons with disabilities. We advocate for disability-inclusive policies by implementing the United Nations framework in our projects such as the one in Bangladesh, which focuses on inclusive emergency management. Individual stories like that of Botchi in Togo through the CBID initiative show the potential for resilience and independence with the right support. Globally, CBM's projects in Pakistan, Guatemala and Malawi demonstrate its commitment to empowering women, improving electoral accessibility and defending the rights of marginalised groups, making an important contribution to the development of inclusive communities.
In Guatemala, CBM's initiatives have significantly improved the voting rights of persons with disabilities and ensured their active participation in the democratic process. This emphasises the importance of addressing the challenges that persons with disabilities face in exercising their fundamental rights.
CBM also focuses on health equity for persons with disabilities, an important but often overlooked aspect of global health inequalities. CBM’s contribution to the WHO report on this topic draws attention to the health challenges of over 1.3 billion persons with disabilities worldwide. In addition, CBM's focus on albinism goes beyond physical health and addresses the associated social stigma and discrimination.
These efforts collectively reinforce CBM's role as an advocate for persons with disabilities and as a catalyst for creating a more inclusive, equitable world where disability does not hinder participation, access to health and contribution to society.
With 65 million school-age children with disabilities in developing countries, half of whom are out of school, CBM is central to reducing the education gap. In Sierra Leone, a partnership with the Baptist Convention resulted in a donation of €32,394 to the Milton Margai School for the Blind, improving education for children with irreversible blindness and emphasising CBM's commitment to inclusive education.
In Malawi, CBM supports innovative teaching at Njewa Primary School, where teacher Falok Mutano uses methods such as oversized flashcards for visually impaired students. This approach benefits students like Chikondi, who regained his sight after surgery at a CBM partner hospital, and promotes inclusive teaching methods.
With its scholarship programmes for ophthalmology in Africa and for Ukrainian specialists, CBM is also tackling the shortage of specialists in ophthalmology and improving medical training and care. These scholarships are an integral part of CBM's mission to ensure equal learning and development opportunities for all people thus contributing to community development.
Inclusive humanitarian action
This year, CBM has prioritised the inclusion of persons with disabilities in humanitarian action, particularly in East Africa. By conducting gap analyses in Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and South Sudan, CBM is making the issue of disability disaggregated data a key consideration in the planning and implementation of humanitarian action, rather than an afterthought. This approach improves the effectiveness of aid as it ensures that all population groups are reached.
CBM has also launched the Inclusive Humanitarian Action initiative, which utilises its extensive experience and goes beyond emergency relief. It is integrating disability-inclusive disaster preparedness into community programmes and refining early warning systems in Cameroon and Niger to meet the needs of persons with disabilities. These steps are critical to building resilient, inclusive communities and demonstrate CBM's commitment not only to the current crisis response, but also to fostering a future that is more inclusive and better prepared for challenges.