MDGs make way for disability-inclusive SDGs

23 July, 2015 - CBM Australia

As the Millennium Development Goals come to an end this year, a new report card has highlighted the success of the goals in alleviating poverty and improving the lives of millions of the world’s poorest people – including those living with disability.

United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon wrote in his fore word of the report card, “the global mobilisation behind the Millennium Development Goals has produced the most successful anti-poverty movement in history”.

“The MDGs helped to lift more than one billion people out of extreme poverty, to make inroads against hunger, to enable more girls to attend school than ever before and to protect our planet”.

The goals included aims to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education and reducing child mortality. As an example, the MDGs helped reduce the number of people living in extreme poverty by more than half, falling from 1.9 billion in 1990 to 836 million in 2015.

Disappointingly, the MDGs did not include disability-inclusive development and this has caused disparities. This has now been recognised in the upcoming Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and more targeted efforts will make sure people with disabilities are not forgotten.The (SDGs) are set to be confirmed in September, and will build on the achievements and shortfalls of the MDGs.

Unlike the MDGs, the proposed SDGs will include disability in many targets; this is an enormous step towards achieving disability-inclusive development globally and is something that everyone at CBM is thrilled to see.

The inspirational goals set out by the SDGs can only be achieved if all global leaders work together.

At a time when Australia’s foreign aid budget has been cut to its lowest level since aid funding began, it is more important than ever for Australia’s government to commit to doing its part to make the SDGs a reality.

This is why we all need to stand up and fight for Australian Aid. It plays an essential role in ensuring the SDGs are met – creating a just and equal world for all.


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Farewell John Jeffries

3 July, 2015 - David Lewis

David Lewis is CBM’s Strategic Programs Director. In this blog, he reflects warmly on the contributions of CBM’s outgoing National Director John Jeffries, and shares personal insights into the way John has guided CBM in Australia to the place it holds today as a leading disability development organisation.


CBM Chair Bill Austin (R) and John at his Medal of the Order of Australia presentation.

CBM Chair Bill Austin (R) and John at his Medal of the Order of Australia presentation.

At the end of an era, I would like to take this opportunity to reflect on the important of John’s work and leadership at CBM.

John’s contribution to the international aid and development sector, both here is Australia and globally for the past three decades is outstanding. The huge number of the world’s poorest people whose quality of life has improved through John’s work is impossible to estimate and is a testament to his passion for helping those who need it most.

Establishing CBM Australia

From 1982, John worked in a team to establish CBM Australia as a trusted and valued organisation. The large and loyal group of supporters CBM has today is a great credit to John’s hard work during the early years, and his vision for what CBM could become. The way CBM’s supporters open their hearts to our life-changing work is in large part thanks to John’s open, friendly and welcoming nature, his faithfulness and his gifted story-telling.

John’s list of achievements at CBM is long, but a few highlights from the past 33 years of service include:

  • Receiving a Medal in the Order of Australia, in January 2014 for his contribution to the aid and development sector;
  • Helping to establish CBM Australia’s reputation and partnership with the Australian Government Aid Program;
  • Helping to establish the Vision2020 Australia alliance to improve eye health internationally, as well as in Australian indigenous groups and the general population;
  • Helping to establish the Australian Disability and Development Consortium, which led to the Australian Government developing a strategy for disability inclusion in the whole aid program;
  • Working to build CBM Australia’s reputation in the aid and development sector through the Australian Council For International Development (ACFID).

John’s work at CBM and in his local community, and his life with his family and friends is founded on a solid faith, and is an outstanding example to us all.

We all join today in saying a fond farewell and thank you to John for his amazing vision, dedication and encouragement over all these years. We wish John, his wife Alison and their family joy and peace in the coming years as they embark on the next steps in their journey.

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Letters from Tanzania – International Day to End Obstetric Fistula

23 May, 2015 - Steph Gaut

Today is International Day to End Obstetric Fistula. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that around 2 million girls and women live with untreated obstetric fistula- a hole in the bladder or rectum that causes uncontrollable incontinence –  throughout Aisa and sub-Saharan Africa, but fistula is entirely preventable.

Emelda Lwena is the Head of Nursing Services at CBM’s partner hospital in Tanzania, CCBRT. In this open letter to our supporters, Emelda shares her experiences of working to restore life and joy to women who often live in shame and are rejected by their communities because of fistula.

Emelda Lwena, centre, works with Tanzanian women living with fistula.

Emelda Lwena, centre, brings care and support to Tanzanian women living with fistula.

I have always wanted to help people. It was my dream as a kid. Now, as a nurse my dream has come true. By caring for women with fistula, we really make a difference. They come in totally confused and full of despair, but when they walk out they walk out happy – and that brings me happiness.

Fistula affects a lot of women here in Tanzania. The major issue is that most health facilities are too far from the women who need them. Ignorance is another barrier. Many people are not well informed about safe delivery, pregnancy complications and labour risks. Some tribes believe fistula is a curse so they hide or isolate these women from the rest of the community. They’ll send her to a witch doctor rather than take her to hospital.

In my opinion it is psychological torture to these women. The husbands run away and they become dependent on other family members for support. Some of them hide for years because the services that could help are very far away, or because they don’t know where to go or don’t have the funds for treatment or for transport to a service.
At our hospital, we break all the barriers that hinder women from getting help. If their problem is transport we provide transport. If it is costs for the hospital we help with that. The operations we do are 95% successful.

CCBRT also has mobile teams that go to remote areas educating communities. I know of a woman who was humiliated and isolated because of fistula. A CCBRT team happened to be in her community when there was a big gathering. We used the opportunity to give the group some health information. They realised the woman was not cursed – she just had a medical condition that could be healed. Seven years after getting her fistula she was taken to the hospital for treatment.

What these women go through really touches my heart. If you are giving a donation to CBM to help, I would like to shake your hand and say thank you very much.

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Nepal Earthquake – My first relief camp

4 May, 2015 - CBM International

Ashok Shah is a CBM staff member who lives and works in Kathmandu. Since the Nepal earthquake struck just over one week ago, Ashok has been working tirelessly to contact our partner projects and keep our offices around the world updated on what is happening on the ground. Here is his personal account of working in a relief camp:


It’s 7. 30am, and I’m outside CBM partner Hospital and Rehabilitation Centre for Disabled Children (HRDC) in Banepa, 22 kilometres east of capital Kathmandu. Around me is a stream of vehicles waiting to depart for the second day of the ‘Disability Relief Camp’ scheduled at a remote village called in Sindhupalchowk – the district which has one of the highest number of casualties – after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal on April 25, 2015. The death toll in this district alone has crossed 1300, while that of the country slowly inches toward 7000, with more than 14,000 injured.

As I board the bus, I can see boxes of plaster supplies, stacks of orthopaedic appliances, drinking water, medical equipment, relief supplies and so much more. There are about 20 members in the bus, including two orthopaedic surgeons, two physiotherapists and three nurses among other paramedical and support staff, ready of the mission. As we set off, I’m reminded of the ordeal we had to go through last Saturday when the massive earthquake hit, followed by strong aftershocks lasting for several days. I’m also reminded of how my entire family slept in a hall on the ground floor, waking up several times at night to run out to the street. Then I was at my hometown Rajbiraj, about 450 kilometres from Kathmandu. Although there was no major damage to lives and property, I’ve never experienced anything so horrifying in my life. Nevertheless, I’m glad that a week later, I’m part of an emergency relief camp that aims to provide much-needed medical care and attention to the people in the remote hilly villages of Sindhupalchowk district.

Two hours later, we are at Sipaghat, a village of about 1000-odd population, situated on the bank of Indravati river. All along, I can see mud houses reduced to rubble, with pieces of broken windows and doors strewn around. Sometimes, the areas smelled of decayed flesh. The devastation caused by the quake is much more than I could imagine. People here are in dire need of relief services.


The earthquake reduced many buildings in the district to rubble.

The earthquake reduced many buildings in the district to rubble.

Soon after, as we park the bus in the village and begin to take the tarps out, a huge crowd gathers to know if we have brought relief supplies for distribution. However, they are equally relieved to know we have come to provide free medical care for those who suffered injuries during the earthquake. While we are just setting up the venue and opening the supply boxes, three severely injured victims have already been brought to the camp.

The first client is Deepa, a young woman with a spinal injury and an arm fracture. She has been carried from a village across the river on a makeshift stretcher, waiting for medical attention since last Saturday.

“I thought I had managed to leave the house when the roof came crushing down on me. I fell on the ground, unconscious… Later, my mother came to pull me out of the debris…” recounts Deepa with a heavy voice. “I have been waiting for medical care since then….” she adds as tears run down her face.

Her house has collapsed completely and she had to stay in a tent with all her injuries for the last six days. The earthquake triggered landslides which cut off the only way to her village. It was only on Thursday, April 30th, a rescue team managed to land a helicopter in the village and provided her a spinal belt to hold the backbone in position. At the camp, the doctors decide to transfer Deepa in an ambulance to a private hospital in Kathmandu, where she will be given free treatment.

As the medical team continues to attend to clients at the venue, the HRDC bus is sent out to bring more patients from the nearby villages. There isn’t a moment the medical and support staff can have rest as more and more clients keep coming in. There are patients of all age groups, with broken arms and ribs, severe head and spinal injuries, and many with deep cuts to their heads and other body parts. With minimum surgical equipment, the doctors are also able to suture cuts and wounds – relieving the victims of the burden of travelling to the nearest hospital. There are also people suffering from diarrhea, fever, cold and other communicable diseases. All of these clients are given free medicines – and a relief pack comprising of biscuits and energy drinks, which the support staff have tirelessly packed the previous night.


Support staff worked to treat over 130 patients in one day.

Support staff worked to treat over 130 patients in one day.

By the end of the day, a total of 133 clients from 10 neighbouring villages have been treated at the relief camp, including 13 severe cases who are transported to Kathmandu in an HRDC ambulance. Also, five children with broken limbs, who were provided plaster casts, have been asked to come to HRDC for a follow-up after a week. And just like the camp, they would be treated there free of charge.

“I’m so happy that we could serve as many as 133 cases today, who would otherwise have been left in the lurch. I’m very thankful to all the support staff and volunteers who went out to bring patients from the nearby villages…” says Dr Bibek Banskota, medical director at HRDC. “I believe there are more people injured by the earthquake and are waiting for medical services… I think we need to plan more relief camps in this district.”

It’s 6 pm, and the sun is coming down slowly on the hills of Sindhupalchowk. A district that is barely 100 kilometres from Kathmandu had to bear the brunt of the violent earthquake. Nonetheless, with a caring organization like HRDC in the neighbourhood, there is definitely some hope for the affected communities. All in all, it was an immensely fulfilling day… although I’m exhausted and ready to drop, I’m happy that I could do my bit to support fellow humans in need.

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Surviving the Nepal Earthquake

30 April, 2015 - CBM International

Our latest blog comes from CBM International in the aftermath of the Nepal Earthquake. We all know how frightening and disorienting a disaster would be, but can you imagine what it would be like trying to get to safety when you couldn’t see, walk or move properly? CBM beneficiary Rajendra, a wheelchair user, recounts his trauma maneuvering debris during the disaster.

Rajendra in front of his damaged hut

Rajendra in front of his damaged hut

About Rajendra

Rajendra lives with his family in a makeshift mud hut in the space behind the decrepit stadium in Rajbiraj, the headquarters of Saptari district and Sagarmatha Zone (which includes the Mount Everest) – about 450 kilometres from Kathmandu. Rajendra is unable to walk, having never received treatment for polio. He has been staying at the present shelter for over 12 years. He works as a daily wage labourer in a local restaurant, and his wage is the only source of income to sustain a family of four members.

Can you describe the situation when the first quake hit Nepal on Saturday?

“It was just another Saturday and I was sleeping inside the house. Suddenly, the ground began to shake as if everything was about to collapse. I could hear people shouting and asking everyone to run out of their houses. In the beginning, I didn’t know what to do. I have never been so scared in my life… But just as I tried to rush for the door, I hit a container left on the floor and hurt myself. I somehow managed to crawl out of the house when I saw there was no one around… everyone had left for a safe, open place but me. I was the only one left behind… It took me twenty minutes to reach there. By then, the tremors had subsided and I was almost crying… I could feel the tremors for more than a minute… After that there were several strong aftershocks in the afternoon. Like many others, I decided to sit in the open field and not enter the house at all.

That night I slept in the stadium along with my children. Actually, I didn’t enter the house for two full days after the deadly earthquake. There was a strong aftershock on Sunday afternoon as well. I realized I am not like others who can run easily and save themselves. I thought I shouldn’t leave the open field. Even three days later, I’m scared to go inside my house. It’s only today I have gathered the courage to enter the house for a few hours. But I think I’ll sleep outside tonight as well.”

How does disability affect your access to safety?

“As I heard others shouting, I tried my best to get out of the house. But I couldn’t leave the house immediately. It took me twenty minutes to crawl and reach an open field where I felt I was safe… while others had reached there within a minute.”

In your opinion, what are the major challenges for people with disabilities during such an emergency situation?

“I think the biggest challenge is our difficulty with mobility… For a moment that day, I thought I would not survive to see the next day. The other thing is the lack of awareness about safety measures during such a disaster.”

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