Over the past few years, the increase in the use of modern contraceptives in Madagascar has slowed down. Enabling couples to determine whether, when and how often to have children is vital to safe motherhood and healthy families. Increasing access to family planning results in profound health, economic and social benefits, and could prevent up to 30 percent of maternal deaths that occur every year. It is therefore essential that all women who want to and are eligible to receive family planning services are able to access contraception. In order for Community Health Workers (CHW) to be able to provide contraception to their clients, they need to ascertain that they are not pregnant.
In 2013, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) conducted a study to test whether providing pregnancy test kits to CHWs is an effective approach to increase use of hormonal, oral, and injectable contraceptives among potential clients. The results revealed a monthly increase of 24 percent in the number of clients using these methods in the areas where the survey was conducted.
Informed by this evidence, USAID’s Mikolo project determined that community pregnancy test kits were a good tool to reduce these missed opportunities. The project has called for a technical task force, including the Ministry of Public Health and technical and financial partners, to scale up the use of pregnancy test kits.
To initiate the program, the Mikolo project is supporting more than 4,000 CHVs to be trained on the use of the pregnancy test kit.
In today’s certificate ceremony, ten CHVs from the Haute Matsiatra region will be recognized for completing their training. “This pregnancy test kit may be a means to increase the number of early antenatal consultations because women can be referred earlier if the test is positive,” said US Ambassador Robert Yamate who presided over the ceremony.
Community health workers will, for the first time, include the pregnancy test kit in community-based services provided to women.
USAID’s Mikolo project will also carry out operations research in five communes in Haute Matsiatra region and five other communes in Atsimo Andrefana region to document the effect of pregnancy screening on ante-natal care visits.