A 1,293 mile hike, 54 consecutive days, 2 sore feet, 1 determined woman and a very worthy cause..

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Tess Shellard is currently walking from John O’Groats to Land’s End (a.k.a. 1,293 miles) to give Malagasy women the opportunity to have family planning services.

Madagascar has one of the world’s fastest growing populations, with an average fertility rate of over 5 births per woman and nearly half of the country’s population currently under fifteen years of age. Only one in five women in union has access to contraception despite government programmes to promote family planning.

A recent UNAIDS survey in Madagascar found that only 12 percent of young men aged between 15 and 24 used a condom the last time they had sex with a casual partner. For women, the figure stood at 5 percent. ?In the remote coastal regions where Blue Ventures operates, access to sexual and reproductive health services is even more difficult. As a result, girls often have their first child as young as eleven and women are having up to 16 children. Infant and maternal mortality figures are high. The rapid growth of coastal populations, whose doubling time is approximately 10-15 years, poses a severe threat to the future sustainability of the country’s extensive coral reefs and other marine habitats, upon which the livelihoods, culture and future economic wellbeing of coastal communities depend.

In the isolated coastal communities of southwest Madagascar – among the poorest in the country – the remote villages depend on dwindling marine resources that are under direct pressure from population growth in the villages, and health care and family planning services are extremely limited. ??”A woman in the village of Andavadoaka who wanted to access contraceptive services faced a 50km journey on foot to Morombe, the nearest town, or would have to pay for passage on a passing ship,” explained Dr Vikram Mohan, founder of the clinic in Andavadoaka. “In cities there are good contraceptive services available; in remote areas like ours most organisations can’t offer a service.” ? The Andavadoaka clinic is funded by Blue Ventures Conservation (BVC) and supported by a programme of community education, which draws upon social marketing techniques to raise awareness, enabling individuals to make their own reproductive health choices. The link between population growth, the lack of family planning facilities and the increasing pressure on fragile natural resources prompted the organisation to establish the small clinic. ??”The work being done by BVC to enable coastal communities to manage their resources sustainably ran the risk of being undermined by the mushrooming population of the community,” says Vic Mohan (Director of Sexual and Reproductive Health Programme and Medical Advisor).  “In addition, an awareness of sexually transmissible infections and a willingness to take precautions was low.”

Working in close partnership with regional health institutions and sexual and reproductive health NGOs, this initiative aims to empower and enable individuals to make their own reproductive health choices, and protect themselves against STIs. It is doing this through the provision of sexual and reproductive health services in 24 villages along the south coast of Madagascar.

So what has this got to do with Tess Shellard walking a whopping 1,293 miles?

Tess aims to raise at least £10,000 and here’s why:

For the cost of a couple of text messages, 20p, they can provide a 3 month supply of the pill.

For the same price as a chocolate bar, 40p, they can provide a contraceptive injection that lasts 3 months.

For less than the cost of a night out, £25, they can pay for an interpreter to work in the clinic for a whole month.

Lots of people would happily pay £200 for a new mobile – that would pay for a nurse to run the outreach clinics and education programme for a whole month, or amazingly it could even buy enough education materials to last an entire year.

Tess only has 40 more days to go of  her 54 day hike and has so far raised £1,535 and she will need your help if she hopes to make her target for this extremely worthy cause!  As the above facts outline, every penny makes a difference!

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You can read Tess’ blog posts online at: http://themightyjogle.co.uk/category/blog/ – extracts include:

‘By far the best day’s hiking so far. Our route followed part of The Great Glen way all along the edge of Loch Ness. The path climbs up into the hills and although for most of it you can only see the forest around you, every now and then it opens up and you get the most beautiful views out across the loch and over to the mountains on the other side. Best of all, from up there you can’t see any of the few bits of touristy monster-related rubbish – it feels completely unspoilt’. excerpt from Day 8: Drumnadrochit to Fort Augustus

Please support Tess, please give generously!