This PHE Champion profile was produced by the BALANCED Project.
Madagascar is one of the world’s most unique ecosystems, with a total of eight plant families, five bird families, and five primate families that live nowhere else on Earth. Madagascar’s tropical forests and marine environments
are home to endemic species of flora and fauna, although tragically 15 species are now extinct. At the same time, Madagascar is rich in freshwater resources, yet more than 60 percent of the island’s 19.7 million people do not have access to safe drinking water.
Since 2003, Zo Zatovonirina has worked for Conservation International (CI) in Madagascar, and he has seen up-close the challenges of reaching remote forest communities, often requiring one- or two-day hikes over treacherous roads. As coordinator for USAID’s Healthy Families, Healthy Forests Program, Zo worked with two Malagasy nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), MATEZA, and the Association for Health Action and Security, to implement integrated population, health, and environment (PHE) approaches in response to community needs in the Ankeniheny Zahamena forest corridor in eastern Madagascar.
From 2003-2008, CI and partners reached more than 25,000 village residents with PHE messages; increased contraceptive prevalence in target zones from 17 percent in 2005 to 30 percent in 2008; constructed 3,000 latrines; and improved environmental health in all priority sites.
Today, biodiversity in Madagascar is under increased pressure, in light of political instability since 2009 and continued population pressures. Recognizing CI and partner experience and investments in conservation efforts to improve human well-being, USAID Madagascar and World Learning recently awarded a new 15-month grant to CI Madagascar and two Malagasy NGO partners – Voahary Salama and Ny Tanintsika – to implement an integrated PHE project in the southeastern Ambositra Vondrozo forest corridor. All three organizations have implemented PHE projects in Madagascar, and they have established trusting relationships with the people living in these fragile ecosystems.
Madagascar has a rich history of implementing successful PHE projects, and this project represents a new PHE pilot phase in the midst of political uncertainty. According to Zo, PHE approaches remain constant – simultaneously addressing several complex and linked problems such as poverty, child survival, and unsustainable dependency on natural resources. In Zo’s experience, CI’s PHE approach touches on all these aspects and delivers a pragmatic, integrated package of interventions designed to increase community capacity to better manage their health and environment. Utilizing PHE approaches, CI, Voahary Salama, and Ny Tanintsika will strive to reach communities for the first time ever with family planning, water, sanitation, and hygiene services while helping them conserve their biological heritage.
This PHE Champion profile was produced by the BALANCED Project. A PDF version can be downloaded from the PHE Toolkit. PHE Champion profiles highlight people working on the ground to improve health and conservation in areas where biodiversity is critically endangered.
Photo Credit: The forests of Madagascar, courtesy of Conservation International/Russ Mittermeier, and Zo Zatovonirina, courtesy of Conservation International.