Working to reduce poverty and improve lives

Throughout CBM’s 110-year history, our field programs have helped to prevent blindness, eradicate poverty and transform the lives of people with disabilities in the world’s poorest communities.

CBM Australia is part of an international organisation and has over 40 years of experience working in the field of disability inclusion. Our focus is on the poorest communities in the world. We work globally, supporting almost 40 partners across 42 countries, and at regional and country levels, helping make real lasting change possible for the world’s most marginalised.

CBM field programs operate in the following key areas:

Disability inclusion

People with disabilities are routinely excluded from health, education, livelihood opportunities and the chance to fully participate in their communities.  

Inclusive eye health

Our work aims to reduce avoidable visual impairment and blindness and ensure those who are permanently vision impaired can access the most relevant support and opportunities to live life to their full potential.

Community mental health

Mental health is core to overall wellbeing and to improving the lives of people with disabilities. Our community mental health work recognises the central role of mental health in wellbeing and quality of life.

Humanitarian action

There has been growing international recognition in recent years of the need to concretely and proactively include people who have been identified as most at risk during disasters, such as people with disabilities.

Disaster risk reduction

We partner with local organisations, who have links to affected communities, and are able to respond quickly to the sudden and often catastrophic impacts of a disaster event.


For people with disabilities, earning an income is empowering and brings the respect of others, including family, as well as enabling other opportunities.

Inclusive education

Our work aims to equip mainstream educational institutions to be accessible in all areas for students with disabilities.

Physical rehabilitation

Our programs work with people with disabilities and their families, through treatment, rehabilitation and provision of devices, to enable people with disabilities to go out and participate in the community. 

We work in two key ways

Community based inclusive development (CBID)

Community based inclusive development is a community based approach to our humanitarian work. It focuses on the needs of people with disabilities, children living in poverty and their families. Community inclusion for people with disabilities helps enable access to opportunities such as livelihood (getting decent work), education, rehabilitation, healthcare, mental health support services and social opportunities. This approach also draws on governments to contribute and support ongoing services necessary to fulfil the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

A group of people with disabilities in Vanuatu. They are outside, trees around them.
A child with her blind grandmother.

Systems strengthening

People with disabilities have to overcome many barriers to be included in their community. While some of these barriers are located in cultural and traditional practices, many arise from policies and how services are offered by government and private institutions. These services include access to school, university and job training; and health screening, clinics and hospital services. To strengthen inclusion we address the following:

  • Understanding the impact of stigma and discrimination
  • Consulting directly with people with disabilities and their organisations
  • Addressing design and accessibility barriers
  • Connecting through community based programs
  • Lobbying for government and policy support
  • Ensuring barriers for women and girls are addressed

Find out more about the link between poverty and disability

CBM Disability Inclusive Development

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the world had been making progress in tackling poverty. Despite this, people with disabilities were being left behind. The pandemic now threatens to undo progress towards ending extreme poverty and is revealing the extent of the exclusion and discrimination that people with disabilities have been experiencing.  

CBM’s program and initiatives are driven by some stark facts: 

  • One in seven of us has a disability — that is more than a billion people around the world, 80% of whom live in developing countries. 
  • One in five (20%) of the poorest people living in developing countries has a disability.
  • There is a vicious cycle of poverty and disability. If you are poor, you are much more likely to have a disability because of poor nutrition and unsafe working conditions, as well as lack of access to medical care, clean water and sanitation. The discrimination and exclusion faced by people with disabilities in health, education and livelihood, for example, results in increased risk of vulnerability and the likelihood to become and stay poor.
  • Millions of people with disabilities are currently affected by humanitarian crises. People with disabilities are the most likely to be worst affected and least likely to get help.
  • The COVID-19 crisis is disproportionately affecting people with disabilities. Some of the key issues include a lack of accessible life-saving public health information, lack of support in putting hygiene measures into practice, lack of accessible health facilities, and in some countries, negative attitudes and vaccine access.   

Make a contribution to support our field programs

How we strengthen the voices of people with disabilities

CBM’s disability advocacy approach is inclusive. It brings the voices of people with disabilities to strengthen the systems that support them. This means that people with disabilities and their organisations inform our work about their own needs and the best ways to enable access to education, health or jobs.

CBM builds the skills of people with disabilities to bring their perspectives when advocating for change. Inclusion in community organisations and government is strengthened by changing attitudes, advising on inclusive practises and policies, and ensuring that champions are supported.

Removing barriers that limit access to services​

Unnecessary barriers mean that the poorest and people with disabilities are systematically excluded from services. Our focus is on changing outcomes for people with disabilities. By working in the poorest communities and enabling access to health services, preventable impairments like these are reduced.

Promoting good practices​

Our work develops approaches for prevention, early intervention and treatment. Together, these help to promote systemic change and enable better access to truly inclusive education for the next generation of children with disabilities.

Supporting inclusive government​

Agreements can be established with governments to strengthen the quality and inclusion of their existing health or education approaches. CBM invests in reducing barriers and the development of fairer services that can meet everyone’s needs — so that no one is left behind.

*CBM Australia is accredited by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), responsible for managing the Australian Government’s aid program. CBM Australia receives support through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP) for 28 field projects.