Surveys were conducted with men and women aged 15-49
After meeting with the village leader and receiving his approval for our study, we surveyed the men before they went out fishing. Following a mid-morning tea break with mokari (small fried rice cakes), we then set about surveying the women of the village. Our strategy was to survey one household in every five but between the houses, cooking huts and abandoned lean-tos, it was like being in a small labyrinth! Fortunately the local surveyors managed to navigate their way around the village, and we ended up finishing early. This gave me time to meet Andika’s traditional midwife with Emmanuel accompanying me to translate. We discovered that the traditional midwife advises women not to use contraception because she’s afraid that it can cause sterility or illness. These misunderstandings were reflected in our survey results, with 40% of people saying that they believe contraceptives can cause sickness. Such lack of knowledge combined with poor access to reproductive health services leads to low levels of contraceptive use, particularly in remote villages like Andika where only 4% of women reported using contraception.
In all of the villages that we visited, I was struck by the huge unmet need for sexual health education and family planning services. Community leaders, men, women and youth were open to discussing these issues with us, and were very eager to work with Blue Ventures in order to improve their health. The mayor of Belo sur Mer was particularly keen to collaborate, having seen the Safidy programme in action on a recent trip to Velondriake, and knowing how valuable those community-based health services would be for villages in the Belo sur Mer area. Now fast forward to June, and it’s with great pleasure that I’ve returned to Belo sur Mer as the Safidy programme coordinator! I’ve spent my first few weeks meeting with partners and stakeholders, so we should be ready to start activities very soon. Local women will shortly be recruited and trained to act as community-based distributors within their own villages; offering family planning advice and a variety of contraceptives including condoms and pills. We’re also going to organise village outreach tours and other educational activities in order to raise awareness about health and environmental topics, and to encourage positive behaviour change.
Blue Ventures' conservation team in Belo sur Mer
I’m really excited to be back in Belo sur Mer, leading the development of the Safidy programme based on the findings from our baseline research. This represents the first replication of Blue Ventures’ integrated Population-Health-Environment approach beyond the Velondriake area, and it feels great to be working with the conservation team in a way that supports local communities to live more healthily and sustainably alongside their unique marine environment. Blue Ventures has been working in the Belo sur Mer area since 2009. Conservation activities focus on marine protected area establishment in partnership with the Madagascar National Parks service, as well as locally managed mangrove reserves and crab fisheries monitoring in partnership with ARDA. Health partners in the Belo sur Mer area include MAHEFA, SARAGNA, Marie Stopes Madagascar and Population Services International. For more information please see this press release. Visit our blog for more updates