09 August 2010, Andavadoaka, Madagascar. A pioneering conservation and development initiative in Madagascar has become the first conservation project in the country to receive support from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). IUCN Member Blue Ventures has secured a UNFPA partnership to continue its public health work in southern Madagascar, supporting villagers to develop strategies to safeguard the threatened marine environment on which their livelihoods and culture depend.
Working with regional health institutions and NGOs, the project provides clinical sexual and reproductive health services to 24 villages along the south western coast of Madagascar. These services empower and enable individuals to make their own reproductive health choices, and protect themselves against sexually transmitted infections.
Blue Venture’s conservation director, Dr. Alasdair Harris, said: "The UNFPA’s support is a hugely symbolic step. A human rights and health based organisation is supporting a marine conservation charity for the first time because of its recognition of the inter-relationship between marine resource sustainability, maternal and infant health, and population growth."
The news has received a similarly warm welcome from the organisation’s clinical technician “It's wonderful news and great recognition for the project”, said Fanja Rakotozafy. “Now the sexual and reproductive health team here is part of the UNFPA family, we have the support to expand and develop our work within Velondriake, the country’s largest marine conservation region. This is good for the community here."
The UN’s Population Fund promotes universal access to reproductive healthcare, and strategically selects NGO partners where appropriate. Access to reproductive healthcare in southern Madagascar is lagging behind the rest of the country. Blue Ventures’ established presence in the area makes it an attractive partner.
Victor Rakoto, the UN Population Fund assistant representative in Madagascar, says: “The UNFPA has found that collaboration between the two organisations could significantly increase access to reproductive health services including family planning services in the targeted region. Another very important development is that this partnership will make a link between the interventions in population and environmental protection.”
Overfishing and temperature-related coral-bleaching have rendered ancient fishing practices ineffective at feeding the rapidly growing local population in Andavadoaka. An influx of migrants using destructive fishing practices has added to pressure on fish stocks.
In this area of rural Madagascar women typically have their first child in their early teens. Family sizes far exceed the national average of 5 children, and are estimated at 6.7 children per family.
Prior to the launch of Blue Ventures’ clinics, women faced a 50km trek through dry spiny forest to access contraceptive services at the nearest clinic.
With support from Marie Stopes International,and most recently with Population Services International, Blue Ventures responded to the desire for better reproductive choices and piloted a powerful, cheap, grassroots solution – a local barefoot family planning clinic.
Notes to editors
*Blue Ventures is an award‐winning marine conservation organisation dedicated to working with local communities to conserve threatened marine environments. It has been a Member of IUCN since February 2009.
*The organisation’s highly acclaimed conservation programmes work with some of the world’s poorest coastal communities to develop conservation and alternative income initiatives to protect biodiversity and coastal livelihoods. The results help Blue Ventures propose new ideas to benefit coastal communities everywhere.
*More information about Blue Ventures can be found at www.blueventures.org