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Coronavirus/COVID-19: Currently we are continuing our programmes in Madagascar, but we need your support. Coronavirus Appeal

Friday, 8th May 2020

The Power of Health Education

By Kirsty Solomons

Wash your hands! Don’t touch your face. Keep your social distance. These are things we are hearing a lot recently.

The Coronavirus pandemic has sparked public health campaigns across the world. Although each country has it's own approach, the goal is mutual and relatively straightforward to define. However, health education is not only used in public health emergencies; it is the key to engaging and empowering communities to make changes to reduce the risk of illness. Madagascar faces many challenges educating its widespread population, 63% of whom live in rural areas with limited electricity, roads, and services1.

Votsira beneficiary and babyThe traditional method of health education in Madagascar is outreach by community volunteers and printed media. The volunteers often work with limited materials, struggling to reach those with low levels of literacy. This is a problem in the Anosy region, where it is estimated that 52% of children have never been to school2. SEED has been working in health education in the Anosy region for 20 years, exploring the most effective ways of spreading important health messages.

Project Votsira has reached over 3,273 caregivers in the city of Fort Dauphin through community sessions, antenatal groups, and over 2,000 household visits. Mothers and grandmothers have learned about pregnancy, nutrition, disease, and more through interactive discussions and specially designed graphic posters. Health promoters reinforced learning by visiting women in their homes. Informing women resulted in positive changes, with 100% of families with children under five reporting that they use a mosquito net.

Mothers were 2.2 times more likely to seek medical attention if their child had diarrhoea following the child health course

Project Votsira

Whilst recognising the power of community-based health education, SEED is adapting and harnessing the power of social media. In Project Safidy, the recent launch of our platform for sexual and reproductive health and rights is an exciting new development. The platform links a network of 23 sexual and reproductive health and rights organisations across Madagascar, which is still growing. Infographics and media on Facebook aim to reach young people across the country, in addition to the sexual and reproductive health curriculum which was taught in 214 schools last year.

Overcoming the geographical barriers to health education, SEED’s water and sanitation project with UNICEF Madagascar is aiming to reach 189,000 people across the region. The project will promote handwashing and aims to eradicate open defecation, by educating people about healthy sanitation practices. 21 promoters have been sent out to over 1000 villages, with the challenge of reaching isolated communities.

Returning to the Coronavirus pandemic, SEED is mounting a response which includes handwashing, distributing masks, coordinating informative radio broadcasts, and an extensive social media campaign. At the heart of this response are our dedicated staff and partners, who are working to educate and protect the community. Informing the people of Anosy about the Coronavirus whilst providing them with some handwashing facilities will help to slow the spread of the virus, and ultimately save lives.