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Christian charity CBM recognised for pioneering work on blindness

The Christian disability charity Christian Blind Mission (CBM) has been announced as joint winner of the world’s largest scientific prize in the field of vision.

CBM won the 2017 António Champalimaud Vision award, along with international NGO Sightsavers.

The award recognizes pioneering work preventing blindness and supporting blind and visually impaired people in developing countries.

A boy receives treatment from a Christian Blind Mission worker.

Kirsty Smith, chief executive of CBM UK, said: ‘We’re honored to receive this award, which is a testament to the tireless efforts of our experts and partners around the world and the amazing generosity of our supporters who enable our work to happen. But there’s still a huge way to go to end the vicious cycle of poverty and disability. Together, we’re determined to build the world where nobody is needlessly blind and every person with a disability has the chance to fulfill their God-given potential.’

The vast majority of the world’s 39 million blind people live in low-income countries. Eighty percent of all blindness could be prevented or treated. Cataracts, for example, which cause half of all blindness, can be treated with surgery for as little as £24. In developing countries, losing your sight often means losing the chance to go to school, earn a living or live independently.

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The award jury of leading scientists and public figures recognized CBM and Sightsavers for decades of work to treat the leading causes of preventable blindness in the world’s poorest places.

Both organizations are recognized as pioneers in the field and were the creators of a model to combat visual impairment based on three pillars: prevention, cure and support.

Sightsavers chief executive Caroline Harper said: ‘It is an honor to be presented with such a prestigious award. So much of the blindness in the world is avoidable and we are delighted to receive such high praise and support of our work to help change this situation for good. It is also gratifying to know our work supporting people with visual impairment and other disabilities to live independent lives and be treated equitably is being recognized too.’

CBM is the world’s largest Christian disability organization working across the developing world. Founded in 1908 by German missionary pastor Ernst Christoffel, who set up homes for blind street children in Iran and Turkey, the charity now works across Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America to transform the lives of people with disabilities and communities at risk.

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In 2016, CBM carried out 433,894 sight-restoring cataract surgeries and protected 8.2 million people from blinding diseases. They work closely with local partners, including many churches, mission hospitals, and Christian community organizations, to ensure that programs meet local needs and have the maximum long-term impact.

Driven by Jesus’ example of reaching out to the most marginalized, CBM’s blindness and visual impairment work aims to reach those who are poorest and most excluded. As well as delivering medical services such as sight-restoring cataract surgery, CBM works with communities to ensure that people living with visual impairments are valued, included and able to fulfill their potential.

CBM and Sightsavers will share prize money of 1 million Euros to support their work tackling blindness. The President of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, presented the award at a ceremony in Lisbon, Portugal, on September 6.

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