Field Programs

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 has more than 30 years of experience working in disability inclusion as part of an international organisation.

In 2020, CBM Australia’s ongoing field program touched the lives of more than 4.38 million people in 22 countries in the Pacific, Asia and Africa. CBM Australia has 35 International program partners who, together with the generosity of Australians and the support of the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP), make real and lasting change possible for the world’s most marginalised. The 2020 annual report has more details.

The impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic

COVID-19 set CBM Australia and our partners a clear challenge: to make sure no one was left behind in country-level responses. The pandemic exposed gross inequality and highlighted discrimination faced by people with disabilities. We responded swiftly to the pandemic, adapting our work in eye health, inclusive community initiatives, mental health and humanitarian responses. We were thrilled that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) allowed flexible use of our Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP) grant. Partners addressed new and pressing needs such as accessible public health messages, protective personal equipment (PPE), emergency provisions and additional training.

In 2020 the impact for people living with disabilities, their families and communities included:

• 147,000 people received training on health and hygiene to prevent COVID infection.
• 29,000 households in communities affected by lockdown benefited from hygiene kits.
• 26,900 households in lockdown benefitted from food donations.
• 12,000 community water supply points were made accessible across five countries benefiting community members with improved hygiene and COVID prevention.
• 62,000 people benefitted from COVID Helplines established to provide mental health and psychosocial support.
• 2,900 people accessed starter kits for fast growing food crops (seeds, equipment).

CBM acknowledges the support of the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP) to 18 projects that responded to COVID-19 in 2020.

Community Based Inclusive Development

Community based inclusive development is a community based approach. It focuses on the needs of people with disability and their families in accessing opportunities such as livelihood, education , rehabilitation,  health care and social opportunities. This approach also draws on governments to contribute and support ongoing services necessary for good inclusion of people with disability.

Community Based Inclusive Development

A person with disabilities living in poverty can often experience the most extreme forms of inequality, exclusion and isolation. Our community based programs work to remove the barriers that limit people with disabilities from participating in society and enjoying the same human rights as everyone else.

Inclusion and recognising rights happens at multiple levels – individual, community and society. This ensures that health, education, jobs and social services are accessible to all men, women, boys and girls with disabilities.

CBM’s community based approach uses a range of individual and community-based strategies. A common focus is enabling access to health, education or livelihood. This succeeds by addressing the challenges that people with disabilities face.

CBM’s community based approach offers opportunities for people to take control and improve their situation, by getting involved with community groups and participating in social activities. Solidarity with others through groups like these are found to make a profound difference.  

We promote the inclusion of people with disabilities in decision making processes, making sure that they have a chance to express their points of view. This includes advocating to government and others about disability issues and increasing awareness about changes that are needed. 
In high risk areas our community programs include activities in community preparedness and resilience for when a disaster or conflict strikes.

CBM works in many African and Asian countries, working with local partners to develop community based strategies that support people with disabilities to be more involved with issues in their community. Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs) and community self-help groups play a central role in implementing and managing programs. Our community based programs support strong partnerships between these groups, local government and a network of partners in the sector.

When it comes to making an impact, the Community Based Inclusive Development approach is one of the best approaches that CBM has. It means that our work with communities continually improves at including people with disabilities. The approach works to get rid of the barriers that stop people with disability having access to the same services and opportunities in life as everyone else in their community.

Systems Strengthening

CBM recognises that for people with disabilities to be included in their community, they have many barriers to overcome. Whilst 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.

Systems Strenghtening - Improved access to water

Removing barriers that limit access to services

To strengthen inclusion in a health or education system we address the following:

UNDERSTANDING the impact of stigma and discrimination

CONSULTING with people with disabilities and their organisations directly

ADDRESSING design and accessibility barriers

CONNECTING through community based programs

LOBBYING for government and policy support

ENSURING barriers for women and girls are addressed

CBM’s disability inclusive approach brings the voice of people with disabilities to the strengthening of systems. 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.

Needless barriers mean that the poorest and people with disabilities are systematically excluded from services. This results in poor health, high incidence of preventable impairment, and exclusion from significant opportunities such as education.  Changing systems changes outcomes for people with disabilities.

 Lack of antenatal services and traditional attitudes in rural contexts in many African countries mean that at-risk pregnancies are not identified. This can lead to obstetric fistulas, resulting in ostracised young women who are excluded from the benefits of community participation.

 Lack of access to education means that children with disabilities miss out on literacy and numeracy skills, are house bound, don’t have school friends and eventually struggle to join the workforce. 

high incidence of blinding trachoma combined with incomplete or no treatment in poor communities means increased suffering, reduced wellbeing and mental health and increased prevalence of blindness.

By working in the poorest communities and enabling access to health services, preventable impairments like this are reduced. 

CBM supports the development of inclusive health and education systems in 11 countries across Asia and Africa by promoting good practices for governments and other organisations to adopt. 

Our work develops approaches for prevention, early intervention and treatment in Low Vision, Physical Rehabilitation, Neglected Tropical Diseases and Mental Health.

Together these help to promote systemic change and enable better access to truly inclusive education for the next generation of children with disabilities.


As a result of this approach, agreements can be established with governments to strengthen the quality and inclusion of their existing health or education approaches.  

CBM therefore invests in reducing barriers and the development of fairer services that can meet everyone’s needs – so that no one is left behind.

Our programs include these topic areas:


Inclusive Eye Health


Disaster Risk Reduction




Mental Health

Humanitarian Action

Inclusive Education

Physical Rehabilitation

Find out more in our Resources Section.

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