Madagascar, but not as you know it.

Thanks to the DreamWorks Animation Company, the name ‘Madagascar’ conjures cozy, magical images of lush green forests and cute talking animals. The reality for this large and troubled island off the coast of East Africa is very different: Madagascar is one of the poorest and least developed countries on earth, and its developmental needs are truly overwhelming. According to the World Bank, in terms of school attendance and food insecurity, only Haiti and Afghanistan are worse off. 

Added to this, climate change and deforestation have transformed huge swathes of the southern region into a red desert. Some have called it the world’s first ‘Climate Change Famine’.

Since 2005 the former British Ambassador to the country, Brian Donaldson, has been running the Madagascar Development Scheme in an attempt to fill the gap left by the closure of the British Embassy and its DFID-funded Small Grants Scheme. Brian and his team have since replaced government funding with grant-making organisations, family foundations, individual donors, schools & churches mostly in the UK. With their help the MDF has built 166 primary, 18 health centres with maternity suites and installed 109 safe, clean water systems.

In 2020 the MDF received a £32,000 donation from one long-standing supporter to build and equip an 11 room health centre in rural Ampasamantongotra, a project initially proposed by a local MP.

Previously, the nearest such facilities were over 8 kms away and involved a long and difficult journey for women in the late stages of pregnancy. Consequently most villagers needing medical attention were forced to rely on untrained traditional birth attendants and healers instead of seeking treatment from trained medical professionals.

Furthermore, mothers and babies suffered from the lack of access to essential vaccinations and monthly monitoring to control their babies’ weight and check on their development.  

With the full support and participation of the villagers, who provided unskilled labour and supplied readily available building materials including gravel, rocks and river sand, MDF’s own building team built and equipped a health centre which included treatment, delivery and recovery rooms, a pharmacy, offices a store room and wheelchair friendly latrines and showers. Solar panels provide power for lighting, fridges and medical equipment.     

On completion the Ministry of Health appointed a doctor, nurse and midwife to the new health centre to combat the most frequent life-threatening illnesses including cholera, typhoid, malaria, high blood pressure and respiratory infections. The new health centre also provides facilities for women to give birth safely, hygienically and in dignity – reducing the previously high incidence of maternal and infant mortality and morbidity, and making it easier for new born babies to be vaccinated and monitored. 

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