Blue Ventures’ community health programme, known in Madagascar as ‘Safidy’ – the Malagasy word for ‘choice’, had its 11 year anniversary last year. Much has been accomplished in those 11 years and, we hope, much more is to come.

Safidy has grown significantly since its inception, with teams in four of Blue Ventures’ six sites in Madagascar, so it was more than time for all Safidy team members to come together, exchange experiences, and discuss the best ways to reach Blue Ventures’ community health goals.

This four-day Safidy retreat was held in southwestern Toliara, known as the City of the Sun because of its hot climate. As it was the first time many of us had met, the retreat began with some fun games and team-building exercises to help us get to know each other. This was a valuable part of the retreat for me, as I think we all developed stronger relationships that will help us work effectively together in the future.

What is the role of Safidy?

After these fun introductions, we dived into a topic that is key to our work, and to BV as a whole: the true role of the Safidy programme. Why does a marine conservation organisation also work in community health?

Safidy began in Velondriake, Madagascar’s first locally managed marine area, where there was a huge unmet need for family planning. We listened to the needs of the communities we were working with, and expanded our work to include reproductive health education and services.

We listened to the needs of the communities we were working with, and expanded our work to include reproductive health education and services.

Since those early days we’ve discovered that supporting communities in this integrated way has wide-ranging benefits beyond community health. We’ve witnessed encouraging advances in gender equality in local marine resource management thanks to the gradual elimination of barriers to community participation. In short, when people are in better health they may have more time and inclination to get involved in other activities.

After this session I understood much better why BV has developed a holistic approach to conservation, and I know that the whole Safidy team was inspired to work in closer collaboration with their colleagues from other programmes. Joint missions with the conservation and aquaculture teams helps to spread Safidy’s message to wider audiences, and increases community understanding that Safidy is the BV initiative that responds to health needs.

What are the goals of Safidy?

So now that we were all on the same page about Safidy’s role, it was time to get down to the details of our short and long-term goals. What are we are aiming for over the coming years?

In the long-term, we want to gradually transfer ownership of all Safidy activities to community health workers and Madagascar’s Ministry of Public Health, as Blue Ventures’ approach in every programme is to empower community autonomy and sustainability.

To get a clearer idea of what short-term aims are necessary to achieve this, each site team shared the activities going on in their region, describing what they thought was working well and what could be improved. Seeing the similarities in successes and challenges between the sites encouraged collaborative problem solving between the teams, and everyone openly shared their ideas and advice as the presentations progressed.

The presentations made clear that each site has particularities, as they have evolved according to the needs of the communities they’re working with, but we also realised that some sites had missed key steps along the way that would have helped increase the effectiveness and impact of their activities.

This led to a discussion on how best to standardise the Safidy programme across our sites to ensure that best practice is shared and that a logical order is followed to make success more measurable.

Safidy’s 2019 aims:

  • For each key activity at each site to have a technical fact sheet for keeping track of activity implementation and development
  • For the planning and reporting templates to be standardised across all sites.
  • For the data collection and analysis systems to be standardised across all sites.
  • For all quarterly reports to be shared with the Ministry of Public Health.
  • Development of a national MoU with the Ministry of Health, to increase access to training and services for community health workers (CHWs) across the country.
  • For all Safidy team members to be trained in the Politique Nationale de la Santé Communautaire – a document that explains all the roles and responsibilities of CHWs.
  • Increased collaboration with our amazing partners (JSI, USAID, PSI, Marie Stopes and more!) to maximise the impact of our health services on the everyday lives of communities, and to increase the capacity of community health workers.
  • The establishment of medical supply points at each sites in accordance with the World Health Organisation’s strategy for Madagascar.
  • Development of youth groups at each site for discussions on sexual and reproductive health.
  • Regular Safidy team catch-ups and learning exchanges between sites to ensure technical accuracy and a continuing focus on our long-term strategy.

Articulating our aims in this way helped us all to fully understand how we could deliver better health services to the communities this year.

I feel so lucky that I had the chance to go on this retreat. I have learned so much over these four days, and now I can say that I’m going back to work with very good guidelines. I cannot wait to be back on site and share all I have learned with my colleagues and put this new knowledge in practice.” – Angelina, Safidy Technician, Ambanja

“I just know that at the next retreat, thanks to what we’ve learned this time, everyone will be sharing their success stories, and I cannot wait for it.” – Fenitra, Safidy Coordinator, Andavadoaka

The retreat was a great success, full of laughter and learning, and 2019 promises to be a full year of development for the Safidy programme. The team is more than motivated and ready to take on these new challenges, and try and reach the goals we’ve set.

Read more from our Safidy team: Njaka and Nantenaina recently attended the fifth International Conference on Family Planning.


Posted by Rinah Rakotondrazaka

Rinah joined Blue Ventures in 2018 as our Community Health Coordinator in Maintirano and the Barren Isles.

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