Working to reduce poverty and change lives

Throughout CBM’s 115-year history, our field programs have helped to prevent blindness, allowed people to escape extreme poverty, and transformed the lives of people with disabilities in the world’s poorest populations.

CBM Australia is part of a Christian international development organisation and has over 45 years of experience working in disability inclusion, with a focus on the poorest communities in the world. We work globally, with our International Programs supporting 47 partners across 12 countries, and at regional and country levels, helping make lasting change for the world’s most marginalised people.

The main drivers of poverty

Poverty is a widespread issue affecting the entire globe. The UN defines extreme poverty as a state marked by significant deprivation of fundamental human necessities.

The UN also reports that approximately 734 million people, equivalent to roughly 10% of the global population, live on less than $1.90 per day – well below the poverty line in Australia.

But what causes poverty? Lack of food, access to clean water, sanitation facilities, healthcare, housing, education and information. All of this hinges not only on income and access to essential services and necessary infrastructure, but also on removing the stigma and discrimination faced by people with disabilities.

One of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals is to end global poverty in all its forms around the world by 2030.

CBM programs operate in the following 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 people with permanent vision impairment 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

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

Disaster risk reduction

We partner with local organisations with links to affected rural areas and rural communities themselves to ensure efficient responses to the sudden and often catastrophic impacts of disaster events.


For people with disabilities and vulnerable families, earning an income can have a huge impact, empowering individuals, fostering respect from others, including family, and enabling new opportunities.

Inclusive education

We work closely with mainstream educational institutions to remove barriers and create more accessible, inclusive and welcoming learning environments 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. 

Obstetric fistula

In Nigeria, CBM is working to improve access of women and girls to sexual and reproductive health services in poor and remote communities. 

How we work

Community based inclusive development (CBID)

Community based inclusive development is a grassroots approach to our work. It focuses on the needs of people with disabilities living in poverty, including children with disabilities and their families. Community inclusion for people with disabilities helps enable access to opportunities such as earning an income, 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.
Pramod (with backpack), Renuka in yellow, and Surbana (multicoloured top) meet with locals at their home in Nepal.

Systems strengthening

People with disabilities have to overcome many barriers to be included in their communities. While some of these barriers are located in cultural and traditional practices, many arise from the policies and approach to service delivery of government and private institutions. These services include access to school, university and job training; social welfare programs 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 global poverty. Despite this, people with disabilities were being left behind. The pandemic has set back progress towards ending extreme poverty and is revealing the extent of the exclusion and discrimination that people with disabilities experience.

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

  • One in six people worldwide have a disability — that’s about 1.3 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. For example, the discrimination and exclusion faced by people with disabilities in health, education and livelihoods results in increased risk of vulnerability and the likelihood of becoming and staying 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 disproportionately affects 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.   

What are the solutions to poverty?

Eliminating extreme poverty is a vital pursuit that requires not only the efforts of a global aid organisation like CBM but the entire global community.

The impact of eliminating poverty will serve as the gateway to unlocking the vast potential of humanity, where we can alleviate hunger, eradicate disease, allow equal access to health services and enable equal access for everyone around the world to thrive and enjoy a fulfilling, prosperous life.

You can support our international 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 livelihoods and the best ways to enable access to education, health or jobs.

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

Removing barriers that limit access to services​

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

Agreements can be established with governments to strengthen the quality and inclusive nature of their existing health or education approaches to vulnerable communities and those who face poverty. 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.