by Dr Clarisse Razanamampionona, Safidy’s Doctor, and Samantha Cockburn, Medical Elective Student.
Safidy is part of Blue Ventures’ integrated Population, Health, and Environment (PHE) approach to conservation in the Velondriake area of southwest Madagascar. Safidy, which means “choice” or “freedom to choose” in Malagasy, focuses on providing family planning options, maternal and child health care and hygiene and sanitation programmes in local communities.
August 2012 was a very exciting month for Safidy. Almost exactly 5 years after Safidy began as a small initiative to provide women with family planning choices, and after years of working out of a small hut on the beach and later a storage room, the time had come to build our own Centre. Having consulted the local community, land was secured in the south of Andavadoaka for the new Safidy Centre. Building work began in May and was finished by the end of July, and once all the supplies were transferred to the new clinic it was time to start planning the inauguration. Invitations were sent out for the 22nd of August and the party preparations began!
The inauguration celebration had a fantastic turnout, including the Medical Inspector and two of his colleagues from the Ministry of Health office in Morombe (several hours north by car!), as well as many community leaders and members from the area. The celebration commenced with the ancestral blessing, performed by the oldest man in the village. Once everyone had had a taste of rum, part and parcel of every true Malagasy ceremony, the speeches began. Those speaking included The Medical Inspector, The President of Andavadoaka, The President of Velondriake, Blue Ventures Medical Director Dr Vik Mohan and the Safidy Project Coordinator Caroline Savitzky. The guests then toured the new Safidy health centre and many people commented on the vast increase in space in comparison to the old facilities. Instead of a single room there is now a stock room, a waiting room and a consultation room with our own exam table! The party then headed to the Women’s Association for some delicious goat, scrumptious cake (made by our very own Clinical Technician, Fanja) and impressive dancing. All in all it was a wonderful way to celebrate the new centre and everyone had a great time.
After the inauguration, it was time to get down to business. The following morning, the centre held its opening clinic, which was also the first antenatal clinic ever held in the area! Thirteen patients were seen in total, 11 requiring antenatal care and 2 requiring pregnancy tests and advice. Indeed, it was such a success that we have now decided to extend the antenatal clinic to a full day instead of just a morning every Tuesday. This is a huge step forward towards Safidy’s goal of eventually providing full antenatal, postnatal and child health care, not just in Andavadoaka but in the wider Velondriake region as well.
So, as can be seen, August was truly a momentous month for Safidy and gives a glimpse into the work we plan to do in the future.