Mesdames et Messieurs,
On behalf of the American people, it is an honor to welcome you. Today, we would like to highlight an important milestone in improving access to family planning methods to Malagasy women. Madagascar is now the first country in the world to scale up pregnancy test use by community health volunteers; this will lead to increased uptake of oral and injectable family planning methods.
For more than a decade, USAID has supported the scale-up of community health programs with the aim of Ending Preventable Maternal and Child mortality. These programs continue to evolve and build on available evidence and research to develop the skills of community health volunteers; a life-line for nearly 10 million Malagasies in more than 1,200 communes.
Together, USAID’s Mikolo project and the Government of Madagascar have been proactive in incorporating pregnancy testing to the list of essential services offered by community health volunteers. This work has been collaborative and productive. The Ministry of Health has drafted the training guidance for community health volunteers, the regional and district officials that have been trained to conduct cascade trainings, and these trainings continue to reach an expansive network of community health volunteers to provide life-saving family planning services to women.
Universal access to family planning services has the potential to reduce maternal mortality by about one-third. In Madagascar, it is estimated that 18% of women reported having an unmet need for family planning. Reducing this unmet need would significantly reduce unintended pregnancies, abortions, and maternal and child deaths. That is why the US Government is investing $14 million per year in Family Planning programs in Madagascar.
By the end of the scale-up, more than 14,000 Community Health Volunteers will be trained to provide pregnancy testing services across the country. This will lead to increased access to short acting oral contraceptives: empowering families to decide, freely and for themselves, whether, when and how many children to have; empowering families to plan their lives, invest in the children they already have, enabling them to realize their own potential.
I would like to thank the USAID Mikolo project team and the Government of Madagascar for undertaking this important initiative, and let us all recognize the commitment of each community health volunteer and their trainers for taking on this challenge and learning these life-saving skills to serve and support their respective communities.