Newsletter Sign Up:

Heather Pearson

By Heather Pearson

May 15th 2015

Author Feed

Mental Health and Emergencies: CBM Partners Meeting the Needs of their Communities

Categories: Development, Disability, DRR, Ebola, Emergency Appeal, Mental health, People with disabilities, Poverty

As we watch the events unfold in Nepal since April 25, we are reminded of the extra challenges that people with disabilities experience during disasters.  Those with physical disabilities may struggle to flee to safety or travel long distances for essentials like food and water.  The methods used to communicate an approaching disaster may not consider the needs of people who live with blindness, deafness or learning disabilities. Temporary shelter facilities, as well as other relief and longer-term recovery services, may not be accessible. And suddenly there is an influx of people experiencing new disabilities within the population;  physical trauma caused by an earthquake, for example, may lead to the amputation of limbs or spinal cord injuries.

At the same time, people with disabilities show incredible amounts of resilience in emergencies.  There are countless stories of people with disabilities helping their own community members.  I think back to working in Haiti with CBM after the 2010 earthquake.  Key members of our community rehabilitation team had disabilities themselves, yet refused to let disability equal inability.  They worked hard within our teams to ensure that the needs of their whole society were being met.

3 yr old Aarti and her grandmother

Aarti was not injured in the earthquake but the 3yr old, who has spina bifida, hasn't smiled or played since.

This week, in the UK, we celebrate Mental Health Awareness Week- a perfect time to talk about the importance of mental health in disasters.  People with psychosocial disabilities (those living with disabilities caused by mental illness) are often left behind during a disaster.  In the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan, we heard stories of people living with mental illness who had been chained in their homes and were unable to flee to safety when the typhoon was approaching.  In addition, access to mental health care – and psychotropic medicines in low and middle income countries is an ongoing issue. During a disaster,  the ability to access care and medication often shifts from challenging to virtually impossible.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that after an emergency, the number of people experiencing mental disorders can as much as double within the population.  At the same time, normal signs of distress within a population increase greatly.  This information highlights something very important.  First, there is a great need to continue to care for people with psychosocial disabilities after a disaster. In fact, the need has now doubled.  But secondly, suddenly there is a large amount of psychosocial stress being experienced within the general population.  This stress is a normal reaction to loss and to exposure to distressing events.  Many will recover from these experiences, however a number of those who need psychosocial support can benefit from simple, cost-effective approaches such as Psychological First Aid.

CBM recognizes the importance of mental health and psychosocial support during emergencies.  We also place a high value on the knowledge and understanding that our local partners have during emergencies within their countries.  This is why CBM works hand in hand with our partners during and after emergencies.

Counselling session, Sierra Leone

Mental health professionals trained by CBM's programme in Sierra Leone offered vital support during the Ebola crisis (Photo:Tamsin Evans, Enabling Access to Mental Health)

In Sierra Leone, for example, our Enabling Access to Mental Health programme had already established an active mental health advocacy group, the Mental Health Coalition – Sierra Leone.  The Coalition had become a focal point for mental health system development, in collaboration with the Government of Sierra Leone.  When the Ebola outbreak started in West Africa, the Coalition was in the perfect position to support the coordination of mental health and psychosocial actors in Sierra Leone.  They were able to advocate for better psychosocial support for health care workers. They also pushed to have mental health professionals (trained under the Enabling Access to Mental Health Programme) placed strategically throughout the country to offer support for those experiencing signs of distress and ongoing care for people with psychosocial disabilities.  The Coalition supported the adaptation of training and activities to the local context, and advised on the development of strategies, policies and basic packages. Because we had a trusted partner already engaged on the ground, CBM was able to mobilize financial support so that they could continue their impressive work.

Now, looking to Nepal, CBM is currently implementing response work, again with strong partners, to offer mental health and psychosocial support.  Already, CBM is a partner with a national level mental health group- KOSHISH.  Our emergency response unit based in Kathmandu has been liaising with them since the earthquake struck, as part of our overall response, and we are now at the stage of providing them with support to be able to meet immediate psychosocial needs of people affected by the earthquake, and to improve access to basic relief aid as well as to specialise services for persons with psychosocial disabilities. In addition, we will draw on the knowledge and experience of our partners doing Community Based Rehabilitation work throughout Nepal. They are in the perfect position to provide their communities with psychosocial support, and we are already working to ensure that relevant staff members are also trained in Psychological First Aid.

People with Epilepsy often face similar stigma and discrimination in their communities as those with psychosocial disabilities.  For this reason, we encourage our partners to also include people with Epilepsy into our mental health and psychosocial support programmes.

Addressing mental health and psychosocial needs is essential for complete and effective disaster response. I hope that by highlighting the work of CBM in emergencies, the experience, rights and needs of people with psychosocial disabilities, are clear. But more importantly, I hope to have shown a way to approach these challenges – not only will this strategy improve the situation for many individuals affected by the current emergency, but will build their resilience for the future, and therefore that of their families, communities and society as a whole.

CBM is working to bring urgent relief to people with disabilities in Nepal after the earthquake on 25th April, and provide vitally needed healthcare for both physical and mental health needs.

Support our Emergency Appeal today

Barbara Trachsel

By Barbara Trachsel

May 14th 2015

Author Feed

Seeing is Believing – restoring sight in Ivory Coast

Categories: Blindness, Cataract

In March, I visited Ivory Coast in West Africa to monitor the progress of our project to scale up the prevention of blindness in the country. This is one of several CBM projects co-funded by Standard Chartered’s Seeing is Believing Programme.

Pre-op cataract examination, Ivory Coast

CBM is providing training and equipment so more people can access cataract surgery in Ivory Coast

The aim of our programme in Ivory Coast is to increase the number of people who receive cataract surgery to restore their sight.  The catchment area of the project includes 7 hospitals, covering a population of around 5.4 million. In that area, an estimated 31,500 are blind due to cataract, according to Ivory Coast’s Eye Health Strategic Plan 2013-16. Cataracts can be easily treated with a simple surgical procedure – but for most Ivorians, sight saving treatment is out of reach because there aren’t enough suitable facilities or trained doctors.

In a poor country like Ivory Coast, where nearly 1 in 4 people lives on less than $1.25 a day, losing your sight is a terrifying prospect. At the COMB hospital in Dabou, I met Seydou, who was waiting to undergo cataract surgery. Seydou was forced to give up his job as a minibus taxi driver three months ago, when sight loss in one eye meant that he couldn’t judge the distance between his taxi and other cars. With little or no support available from the state, he had to rely on family and friends to support him, his wife and his seven children. For him, the surgery was life-changing  – very soon he will be working again, regaining his independence and the chance to escape poverty.

Another patient I met at COMB hospital was Ndri Kouassi. In his 70s, the former draughtsman became completely blind due to cataract four years ago. It was a traumatic experience; he became completely dependent on family members. In hospital, before surgery, he seemed vulnerable and lost; his wife held his arm to guide him but he often stumbled.  A few days later I met him at his home. With his sight restored, he was a changed man, laughing and confident.  Now he could see his children and grandchildren, he explained, he was no longer in the wilderness.

CBM has been working with COMB hospital for many years and the hospital is playing a key role in our programme, hosting a training programme for eye-specialists in carrying out cataract surgery. Once they’ve completed their 6 month training programme, these doctors will work at one of four new cataract surgery facilities that CBM is setting up and equipping at regional hospitals. By the end of the four year programme, we expect to have trained 42 ophthalmologists and increased the number of cataract surgeries by 200%.

Woman guided by her daughter before cataract surgery

Cataract surgery can restore sight and independence

Currently many patients have to travel miles to get the surgery they need. I met one elderly lady who was staying with relatives so that she could get to hospital for surgery. I was struck by the dedication of her daughters, who had made the long, difficult journey with her so that  their mother could have her sight restored.  But for many people who have lost much of their sight, such a journey would be impossible.  Equipping regional hospitals and training doctors to work in them is vital if eyecare services are to be accessible to those that need them most.

Ivory Coast is one of the poorest countries in the world – the UN’s places it at 168 of 186 countries in its Human Development Index. CBM’s four year project is co-funded by Standard Chartered Bank’s Seeing is Believing Programme.

Julian Eaton

By Julian Eaton

Apr 7th 2015

Author Feed

One year on since the Ebola crisis

Categories: Adult, Development, Disability, Disability Inclusion, DRR, Ebola, Economy, Emergency Appeal, One year On, Sierra Leone

It has now over a year since the Ebola outbreak started in Guinea. CBM supported partners in Guinea and Sierra Leone – 2 of the 3 most affected countries – were forced to scale down their routine activities like community eye care, cataract operations, and community mental health care. The loss of local staff either from Ebola or due to difficulties in travel, and the reduction in clients coming for services has led to a risk of insolvency of institutions, among other negative effects. By extension, tens of thousands of people who depended on them for health, and other social services are no longer getting the services they require resulting in greater disability and deeper poverty.

CBM is working with a grass-roots organisation in Sierra Leone to reduce the vulnerability of people with disabilities and their families to Ebola through awareness raising strategies.

Dr Julian Eaton, Psychiatrist and CBM Mental Health Advisor for West Africa, tells us more about the mental health programme and its role in responding to psychosocial needs of the population in Sierra Leone.

Our activities in Sierra Leone since the Ebola outbreak started

When the Ebola crisis began in March 2014, our programmes in Sierra Leone were affected. Due to the rapid spread of this disease, there were significant travel bans imposed, bans on public gatherings, closure of schools, reduction in the use of hospitals by people etc. Routine cataracts and surgeries came to a standstill and routine programmes started collapsing.

We needed to continue supporting our existing partners as there was no income flowing in due to lack of day-to-day expenses of operations and surgeries etc. Business services started collapsing due to the lack of finances and there was a massive gap between what was existing and what was needed by the people.

CBM’s first response to the outbreak was to redirect our efforts as much as we could, within the framework of our programme, to support the mental health and psychosocial response to the outbreak.

CBM projects in Sierra Leone

The ‘Enabling Access to Mental Health’ Programme (EAMH) supported by CBM has been active for the past four years in Sierra Leone. Addressing the consequences of mental health is an important part of standard Ebola response. Today, this programme focuses more on the specific mental needs of people affected by this disease. It provides mental health facilities to families of Ebola victims, children who are now orphans, health workers who are under a huge amount of stress and survivors who are marginalised by their families and communities.

The programme has dedicated three blocks to:

  • Block 1, Capacity Building: support the 21 mental health nurses trained by the EAMH programme in the districts, so they can provide services for those who are suffering the consequences of the outbreak. Other efforts, like the provision of trainers and specialists to prepare teams of other organisations (such as child protection) are also being made.
  • Block 2, Advocacy: The EAMH has also established the Mental Health Coalition that brings together stakeholders to advocate for the inclusion of mental health in the government’s agenda. The Mental Health Coalition has been engaging from the beginning of the outbreak with the response pillars of both, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Social Welfare, to ensure that the mental health component of the outbreak is not neglected and that local actors are taken into consideration. The Coalition, being one of the main actors in this area, works in close collaboration with WHO, UNICEF, and the other NGOs.
  • Block 3, Awareness: Radio programmes and support to the other blocks are being provided, to raise awareness about the psychosocial consequences of the outbreak, and to fight stigma and discrimination.

To address the massive increase in needs CBM has also added more resources to scale up support for psychosocial disability. We have collaborated closely with the WHO to write a standard manual for psychosocial first aid (both in English and in French). This manual is currently being used by national governments, WHO and other international and local NGOs in Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Mali, Guinea, Togo and Liberia.

In Sierra Leone the Mental Health programme has been the strongest programme supporting services outside psychiatric hospitals. It has deployed nurses who are the main referral for people doing counselling.

Building Resilience for persons with disabilities during the Ebola Crisis

Another project has begun to ensure the resilience of people with disabilities to the outbreak. CBM has liaised with our local partners in Sierra Leone to adapt all official messages from the WHO, UNICEF and the government, to ensure they are accessible for people with disabilities.

We are adopting a participatory approach in this project – our partners are conducting training sessions for Organisations for Persons with Disabilities (DPOs), who in turn train communities in the villages. We have involved key organisations in this project – specialist schools for hearing impairment, amputee groups etc. so that people with disabilities can have a say in how they want messages to be transmitted to them. Right now our collaborating local partner organisations are identifying other DPOs and organising workshops.

Disaster Risk Reduction and preparedness in Nigeria and Togo

We are strengthening capacities of Mental Health workers to provide mental health support in crisis situations. All these projects are strongly focused in working through our local partners, capacitating them, working in collaboration and therefore, assuring sustainability and continuation after the Ebola crisis period.

Beyond the realm of mental health, CBM is supporting existing partners involved in eye health in Sierra Leone, to sustain their programmes and to reduce the vulnerability of their target group to Ebola. The partners have had to scale down their eye health activities in their catchment areas thereby depriving communities of much needed eye health service. A person who is blind is doubly vulnerable compared to able-bodied members of society due to the fact that they require support in their daily living as a result of an inaccessible environment. A key strategy Ebola health workers are promoting is the “don’t touch rule” to reduce the spread of infection. Such a rule, to a person who is blind completely immobilises them and elevates their risk of infection to Ebola.

In this context, CBM eye health partners aim to: increase the knowledge of their staff and traditional leaders regarding Ebola to enable them to effectively sensitize communities in the catchment area; and to work with DPOs to reach out to persons with disabilities especially persons who are blind.

The current Ebola epidemic has overloaded and stressed health infrastructure in the affected countries; the number of health care workers – already insufficient before the outbreak – has gone down even further as many health workers became infected and lost the fight. Social stigma towards survivors of Ebola and their families has increased thus worsening distress and isolation. Family and social ties have been severed; cultural practices have been over-turned; and livelihoods have been severely strained.

In future, the affected countries, and the international community will have to engage at a much wider scale to re-establish the socio-cultural, economic, and political systems, which Ebola has severely shaken. This will be a critical and indispensable step if the affected countries are to overcome future public health challenges like the current one.

In the coming months, CBM will participate, with other development agencies and the governments of the three affected countries, in a major conference looking at lessons learnt in mental health and psychosocial support from the outbreak, and how we can work together to rebuild mental health services.

Further reading

News: World Health Day – One Year On

Dave Taylor

By Dave Taylor

Apr 7th 2015

Author Feed

What makes a person with disability so precious to God?

Categories: Benjamin, CBM, Cerebral Palsy, Child, Disability

My precious son, Benjamin died on May 11th 2013, aged 16. Benjamin lived with quadriplegic cerebral palsy. In his case this meant being a wheelchair user, being non-verbal, being tube fed into his stomach via a gastrostomy and being physically dependent for all his basic needs.

Benjamin

Dave's precious son, Benjamin.

But like millions of people living with a disability around the world, Benjamin was a shining light to those who knew him, a portal through which people got a glimpse of grace, and the very heart of God. He had an extra special awareness of God in his own life and could see Him in the lives of others. I haven’t got the space here to tell you how that panned out in Benjamin’s life, but I do want to explore what it is that makes people with disability so precious to God.

Theologian Richard Rohr says this ‘The Bible is extraordinary because it repeatedly and invariably favours the people on the bottom, and not the people on the top.

The Church, and society in general, have moved a long way from this Biblical solidarity with the powerless. Once it was at the centre of the establishment and had, in the main, lost its revolutionary identity, the Church became a bit embarrassed by this powerless, bleeding, crucified loser from Galilee, Jesus. He ended up an accused criminal for goodness sake and died that way, disempowered, disgraced, disabled, on a cross.

Sure, we have maintained our worship of Him, but who wants to end up like Jesus? Who wants to be ridiculed, treated, at best, like a second class citizen? Who wants to be pushed, ignored, and spoken about as if they weren’t there, having to listen to what is being said about them?

There is something that is more than a bit weird about the majority of us! Many of us worship this illegitimate, Palestinian street kid who was born surrounded by dung in an animal trough. The vast majority of us at least acknowledge His existence at Christmas, some of us may take pride in the fact that we follow ‘The Son of God,’ we may consider ourselves to be compassionate beings, but in the nitty-gritty of daily life we want to be winners, successful, on top.

Yet it was to those who were defiled, considered by the religious people of the day to be ‘unclean’, that Jesus not only hung out with but found a special place in His heart for.

Who are those people in today’s world? Those with learning and physical disabilities, minority groups, women (in some cultures), refugees, the addicted, people who are trafficked, those persecuted for their sexual orientation, the prisoner, the homeless – in fact anybody who does not fit nicely into a neatly constructed social system.

But it is those very people, the people that God is so passionate about, who are the most effective demonstrators of the Gospel.

As Fr. Richard Rohr puts it ‘these are the ones who represent what we are most afraid of within ourselves, what we most deny within ourselves.’

People with a disability were, and I would argue, still are, partners in the ministry of Jesus: The man of Luke 5:19 who was lowered by his friends through a hole in the roof to meet Jesus is one example. Yes, of course, his friends helped him – that’s what friends do – but it was the man with a disability who not only encountered Jesus himself, but was the gateway through which his mates also had an encounter!

Or there’s the man who is blind in John 9:1. When asked by his disciples who it was that had sinned, the man himself or his parents, Jesus explained that the man was this way so that the Kingdom of God could be seen?

How inspiring! How counter-cultural. CBM UK and our grassroots Partners are with people with various disabilities, living in the poorest communities on the planet. CBM is about enabling, empowering these people to have access to their rights and potential, but it is the person with the disability who is the inspiration, and the portal through which we, and many others besides, get a glimpse of grace.

Rosi Jack

By Rosi

Mar 13th 2015

Author Feed

Celebrating a mother’s love and care – Mother’s Day

Categories: CBM, Child, People with disabilities, Poverty, Uganda

As the UK celebrates Mothering Sunday this weekend, 15th March, we’d like to tell you about one very special mother. Roy is 26 years old and has four children. She lives with her husband Ronald and four children in a remote village in Uganda, East Africa, about 100km northeast of the capital, Kampala.

Roy encourages Denis to drink some tea after surgery

Roy encourages Denis to drink some tea after surgery

Like millions of mothers around the world, Roy works hard to support and care for her children. It’s not easy to bring in enough money for the day-to-day essentials and school fees for her two older children – primary education is not free in Uganda. She and Ronald eke out a living growing sweet potatoes, maize and beans and making bricks.

But what makes Roy particularly amazing is that one of her four children – Denis, aged 8 – is actually her half-brother. He came to live with Roy and Ronald just a year ago. We’ve been sharing Denis’ story recently as thanks to CBM supporters, he is currently being treated for Blount’s Disease, which causes his legs to bend and makes walking slow and painful.

Denis had been abandoned by his biological mother and was living with his father.  But he was not treated well.“While all other children at my father’s place were sent to school, Denis was neglected. He didn’t bring the boy to a doctor or send him to school. Instead the father gave him funny and abusive names because of his disability. He has even beaten the boy”, explains Roy.

Sadly, due to the stigma attached to disability and the lack of support and education for parents, this story is all too common. But Roy looked at Denis and saw a boy who needed love and care. She took him in and is now mother to him, along with her three other children.

Without treatment, Roy knows that Denis’ future would probably be bleak. “If he remains with this condition he will face very difficult times in future. He may never be independent. He may need help at all times. He will have a lot of pain and his mobility will always be limited. And he might never find a woman who wants to marry him”.

But the treatment for Blounts’ Disease is far from easy for an 8 year-old to go through.  Denis spent a tearful night in hospital before his surgery, a long way from home.  Since initial surgery to straighten his leg, he has to wear a metal brace or “fixator” on his leg, with daily physiotherapy exercises that often cause him pain.

Roy learns how to help Denis with his physiotherapy exercises

Roy learns how to help Denis with his physiotherapy exercises

It’s hard to imagine how a child could go through treatment like Denis’ without a mother’s love and support. Roy is with him every step of the way. At hospital, hers was the first face he saw when waking up from surgery, encouraging him to drink some tea and then have a rest. Before travelling home with him, she learned about the exercises he must do to ensure that his leg heals strong.  Every day, she encourages him to do his exercises, encouraging him to persevere in spite of the pain.  She must also work hard to help Denis keep his wound clean to prevent infection – not easy when you live in a dusty environment with no electricity or running water at home.

CBM supporters, outreach workers and doctors are all playing a vital role in helping Denis on his treatment journey, which is vital for him to build a better future. But without Roy by his side, showing him a true mother’s love and care,  none of this would be possible.

More about Denis’ journey of hope.

Roy helps Denis walk with his crutches

Roy helps Denis walk with his crutches

Denis, Roy and family at home

Denis, Roy and family at home

Dave Taylor

By Dave Taylor

Mar 3rd 2015

Author Feed

The cost of twiglets

Categories: CBM, climate change, Development, Disability Inclusion, Inclusive, People with disabilities

A packet of twiglets costs the same as a month's savings for a farmer in Madhya Pradesh

I’ve just returned from a trip to India where I visited one of our CBM partners, Naman Sewa Samiti, in rural poor Madyha Pradesh. I was there to visit an inspiring project, Inclusive Organic Farming. On my outward journey, at Heathrow Airport, I bought a packet of twiglets; little did I know then, how valuable they were!

Betul District in Madhya Pradesh, is deemed by the Indian government to be one of 250 poorest areas in the whole of the country. To live here is to know what it is like to lack clean water, to live in poverty, and to struggle for hope.

Imagine then, living against this backdrop with a disability. There is no NHS, no benefit system. Yes, extended family and the sense of community are impressive support systems, that have long since disappeared from the so-called ‘developed’ world, but in rural India, despite being officially outlawed, the deeply-rooted caste system is strong and pervades religious belief.

Slum community, Betul - the poorest place in one of India's poorest regions

This is not good news for the person with a disability. Some see them as having bad karma, people guilty of some misdemeanour in a previous life.This means that discrimination abounds towards  people with a disability. Too often, they are disempowered, considered to be of far less value to employers, and sometimes, abandoned in their home or pushed out to beg on the street.

Inclusive Organic Farming

CBM UK Partner Naman Sewa Samiti has been working with with people with diabilities in the area since 1994. Historically this has been done through spice making, cooperative and credit banking, self help groups and health education.

Since 2004 Naman has been working with farmers living with a disability, or those caring for a family member with a disability, and empowering them in a new, accessible, far more cost-effective and productive way of farming; organic farming. The results have been stunning. The stories of transformation moving and inspiring.

Take Gajanand and Sangwata for example. Proud parents to twin boys Atul and Praful. Their boys were born with extra special needs, and life has been a struggle. Like most people in the area they are farmers. Farming is difficult enough, but throw in twins into the equation, especially twins with extra needs and challenges and, well, you can imagine.

When the boys were 8, their mum and dad had to make the gut-wrenching decision to  send them away to a residential special school, miles from the famiily home. The lack of transport meant that Gajanand and Sangwata did not see their precious boys for weeks, even months at a time. Even if they could have got there, they were in financial dire straits brought on by their inability to pay for the chemicals to sustain their farming. They were desperate.

Gajanand and Sangwata - working for their boys' future

One day a field-worker from CBM UK Partner, Naman, got to hear of their plight. The couple were introduced to Inclusive Organic Farming. Over the following year, their fortunes were turned around. They came to realise that organic farming, a method in this part of the world that uses plentiful natural resources such as animal dung and aromatic leaves, would cost them next to nothing. They applied, were interviewed, and joined the programme, one that involves checks/inspections, transparency and accountability.

Gajanand and Sangwata were able to grow their customer base, sell at the market and earn more. The small savings that they have been able to make has resulted in more visits to see their boys, and enabled them to put aside some money to contribute to their sons’ future security.

Not only that, they are both now involved in running groups for other parents and farmers who find themselves facing similar struggles.

The ugly face of poverty

I have seen many times, the ugly face of poverty, and how it blights beautiful people. I am sick of it. I hate it. Seems to me we have three fundamental choices that confront us individually and as a society. We can ignore it, pretend that over two thirds of the planet’s population do not live this way, we can see it and choose to do nothing about it, paralysed by our own lack of resources or the sheer size of the task before us, or we can try to play our small part in eradicating the obscenity and injustice of poverty.

I am so grateful to CBM UK that they consider I have a ‘few tools in the box’ to play my part. But if poverty is going to be tackled we all need to be on board. If we are going to see a fairer allocation of resources and wealth, then those of us who are in a privileged position to generate some, should, in my opinion, give some of that away. Actually it’s not all about giving, because there is something in the way that we are wired, that makes US, that makes me, feel good when we give. Giving is receving. Who doesn’t want to feel good? Who doesn’t like receiving something?

I want to shamelessly pull on your heart strings (and your purse strings for that matter). Look into the eyes of Raja, aged 6, living in a slum with a learning disability. Aged 6! He’s gorgeous, beautiful, but poverty has got him, and millions like him, around the throat and is strangling his life and hope for the future.

Humour me, just for 30 seconds. Look into Raja’s stunning eyes, and think. Think about yourself, think about your family, your loved ones, your friends. Then look up and give thanks for the roof that is over your head, and as you look up, offer up a thought/prayer for Raja, and ask how you can help, how you can play your part in loosening the grip of poverty.

Raja, aged 6, he wants to be a cricketer! He has a profound learning disability and lives with his mum in a slum community

New York advocacy updates

Categories: Adult, Advocacy, Beyond 2015, CBM, Development, Post-2015, PWD, SDGs

On 9-11 February, I was part of a group in New York, USA, advocating for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the post-2015 development framework. Orsolya Bartha (The International Disability Alliance) and I were quite fortunate this week to collaborate with Andrew Griffiths from Sightsavers who is also an Executive Committee Co-Chair of Beyond 2015.

Beyond 2015 is a global civil society campaign, pushing for a strong and legitimate post-2015 development framework. In NY, we work closely with Beyond 2015 in our joint advocacy as civil society stakeholders at the United Nations. More than 1000 organisations participate in Beyond 2015 from more than 130 countries representing 41 countries in Africa, 29 countries in Asia and the Pacific, 35 countries in Europe, 2 countries in North America and 26 countries in Latin America. CBM International, CBM Australia, CBM Canada and CBM UK are all participating organisations in Beyond 2015.

We met with an array of Member States, including: Bangladesh, Brazil, Cameroon, the People’s Republic of China, Ireland, Israel, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, and the United Kingdom. We received strong support for the inclusion of persons with disabilities from these meetings. In addition, once again we were told that persons with disabilities are a very strong advocacy group at the UN. Specifically, Brazil stated that persons with disabilities are the most organised of all advocacy groups at the UN. Thank you, Brazil!

Ms. Catalina Devandas Aguilar, Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, presenting at Commission for Social Development.

We were particularly positive about meeting with the Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the UN since it is the first time we had the opportunity to meet with this important Member State. The People’s Republic of China is very supportive of persons with disabilities in the post-2015 development process, in particular in areas of poverty eradication, employment, health, and education. In our meeting we learnt that there are approximately 88 million persons with disabilities living in China and that the China Disabled Persons’ Federation is quite active and collaborates with the government. Specifically, Peng Liyuan, the wife of the Chinese President Xi Jinping, has called for a “more just, tolerant and sustainable environment for the development of disabled people.”

In addition to the afore-mentioned post-2015 events, the 53rd Session of the Commission for Social Development also took place in NY on 4-13 February. Member States that explicitly referenced persons with disabilities include: Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Egypt, the EU, Finland, Iran, Italy, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Nepal, Pakistan, Republic of Korea, Sweden, and Viet Nam. I had the lovely opportunity to speak with Ms. Catalina Devandas Aguilar, Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities who gave a fantastic presentation at the session. Watch the video of Ms. Devandas’ presentation. We greatly look forward to working with you in the coming months and years!

Elizabeth Lockwood is CBM’s UN Advocacy Officer based in New York. Elizabeth focuses on developing advocacy strategies to raise awareness, network, build capacity, and lobby for the rights of persons with disabilities at the UN level in relation to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Inclusive Development. This post first appeared on the CBM International blog.
Page 3 of 111234510...Last »