How a Christian disability charity response to Coronavirus is saving lives
In Nigeria, CBM members are working with disabled people’s organisations and media organisations to provide sign-language interpretation for vital health messages and updates.
04 JUNE 2020 · 12:00 CET
The media is full of bleak, challenging and depressing news at the moment; stories from around the world of the Coronavirus causing serious illness and death, of devastation to lives and livelihoods, of nations close to collapse as they try to respond to this crisis.
But it’s not all bad news, there are glimmers of light amongst the darkness, good news stories of individuals, governments, and organisations who are responding to the huge need for help that is out there in positive and life changing, and life saving, ways.
Christian disability charity CBM is one of these good news stories. CBM, or Christian Blind Mission, founded 110 years ago and working to build a more inclusive world for people with disabilities in some of the most remote regions of the world through inclusive education, livelihoods programmes, and developing healthcare systems, is working hard to make a difference in these difficult times.
Like many charities working with disabled people both at home and overseas, CBM’s work has been impacted by the Coronavirus and so they are adapting their programmes to ensure that people with additional needs and disabilities are included in relief efforts in the world’s poorest places.
At times of crisis, people with disabilities are at greatest risk – often among the worst affected and the last to receive help. Some may not hear about the best ways to protect themselves, because health messages are not accessible, while others will be unable to reach help should they become infected with the virus.
As people with disabilities are often among the poorest in their communities, they may struggle to access essentials to keep themselves safe, like clean water and soap, and be unable to afford to stock up on food to cope with lock-down restrictions. Movement restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus mean that many support activities have had to be scaled back, leaving people without help they rely on. Children with disabilities may be particularly affected by school closures as they miss out on specialist support they need.
CBM are stepping up and responding magnificently to this need despite many of their projects across locations in Africa and Asia, for example, being severely affected by the pandemic. They partner with hospitals who are struggling with access to PPE etc. while the numbers of people needing hospital care has rocketed. CBM’s eye care projects, their mental health projects, as well as groups to help disabled people support themselves financially have all had to be put on hold due to the pandemic and the restrictions around movement, lockdown and social distancing.
It’s tough for everyone, but especially for disabled people and their families, so CBM is turning its efforts to providing what support it can at this time. This includes essential support like ensuring that food and essential supplies are available to those whose need is greatest.
In Zimbabwe, where millions of people were already at risk of starvation due to natural disaster and economic crisis, CBM’s emergency response team continues to provide essential food aid packages to those in greatest need. In Vietnam, their local partner is distributing packs of cooking oil, dry hand sanitizer, mouthwash, soap, masks, milk, rice and fish sauce to people with disabilities and their families, elderly people who live alone and other particularly vulnerable households. Much of their response is delivered in partnership with local disabled people’s organisations.
They are also working hard to ensure that vital information including health messages are able to be accessed by disabled people. For example, in Nigeria, they are working with disabled people’s organisations and media organisations to provide sign-language interpretation for vital health messages and updates, so people with hearing impairment can keep themselves safe.
Reacting to the Coronavirus pandemic in the Philippines. / CBM
In Indonesia, they are supporting the Government to include Disabled People’s Organisations in disaster response meetings, to raise awareness of the barriers facing people living with disabilities and ensure all information produced and policies issued are inclusive.
CBM trains thousands of health workers every year, across the world’s poorest countries, working with in-country health authorities and partner organisations. They are continuing to support these health workers with PPE and health kits, as well as other practical support, to help them keep going as they work in increasingly dangerous situations.
While some of CBM’s mental health programmes have had to be put on hold, they recognise that mental health issues are on the rise as a result of the virus and so are reaching out to people in every way they can. This includes online support in places including Nepal and Kenya, as well as a ‘buddy system’ where two people can either phone or, if allowed, meet (socially distanced) to support each other. Lots of practical support is being offered through printed content at mental health clinics too.
They are also helping and training other humanitarian organisations to respond to the needs of disabled people during this crisis too, with their Humanitarian Hands on Tool (HHOT) mobile ‘phone app’ being a vital part of this important work.
So, in the many tragedies that the Coronavirus is bringing to people all over the world, let us remember and be thankful for those glimmers of light, people and organisations making a positive difference and reaching the most vulnerable of our global community. CBM is doing great work and if you would like to know more about them, please visit their website.
You can also read more about their work during the Coronavirus outbreak in this downloadable resource that includes loads of great quotes from people helped by them:
CBM_Inclusive Response to Coronavirus
It is great to shine a light on organisations like CBM that are doing great work at this difficult time. If you know of other organisations that it would be good to showcase, do let me know.
In the meantime, if you’re the praying sort, please spare a moment to pray for CBM and their partners. If praying isn’t your thing, send them some positive thoughts, and either way why not read more about them and even see how you might be able to help or support their vital work.
Mark Arnold, Director of Additional Needs Ministry at Urban Saints. Arnold blogs at The Additional Needs Blogfather. This article was re-published with permission.