The Madagascar Action Plan aims todevelop all aspects of the country aswell as to introduce measures to curbpopulation growth. Madagascar’spopulation is expected to doubleto 43 million by 2050.(Image: Mission Madagascar)Tamara O’ReillyThe New Madagascar Action Plan (MAP), of which boosting access to contraception is an integral feature, is a bold strategy focussed on boosting a country whose ballooning population is hamstrung by social, economic and environmental pressures.The population of the world’s fourth largest island has doubled in the last 25 years to 19.5-million and estimates are that by the year 2050 it will reach 43.5-million. According to the Malagasy government, there are between seven and 10 children per household in rural areas. More than 70% of the total population lives below the poverty line and 50% of children under the age of three suffer retarded growth, partly due to malnutrition. According to the United Nations Human Development Index for 2005 which is a measurement of life expectancy, literacy, education and standard of living, Madagascar was listed as one of the low human development countries ranking 143 out of 177 countries surveyed.Agriculture, including fishing and forestry, is the mainstay of the economy and accounts for more than one-fourth of gross domestic product, employing four-fifths of the population. Climate change and a rise in the number of natural disasters over the past 35 years have affected production and exports, creating a ripple effect on the economy and people’s ability to survive. An increase in the price of rice, the island’s staple food, has also hit large segments of the population, particularly the rural poor.Healthcare boostThe five-year MAP, initiated in 2007 to establish direction and priorities for the nation, aims to speed up development on the island by boosting eight key areas, including infrastructure, education, rural development and health.Listed under healthcare is family planning, which has been problematic in rural areas due to poor infrastructure and traditional beliefs that a woman should bear several children. Adding to population pressures is a 36% drop in infant mortality from 177 per 1 000 live births in 1981 to 43 in 2006, according to the US based Population Reference Bureau’s 2006 figures. This is a result of more extensive and accessible healthcare services in urban areas.According to Irin News, MAP seeks to reduce the average size of the Malagasy family through educational programmes aimed at reducing unwanted teenage pregnancies and making contraceptives more widely available.An early initiative of this kind was the Madagascar Population Support Project carried out between 1993 and 1998, which attempted to expand the use of modern contraceptive methods in urban areas and reduce the fertility rate. The project also provided family planning services in the workplace, introduced non-scalpel vasectomies and educated people through a popular radio series.Through these efforts the project helped increase the contraceptive prevalence rate from 3.5% to 9.7% nationally – a total increase of 177% over the five-year project life.Useful linksMission Madagscar UN Human Development Reports Government of MadagascarDo you have comments or queries about this article? Email Tamara O’Reilly at [email protected]
Security forces killed three militants, including Tehreek-ul-Mujahideen Srinagar district commander Muhammad Ehsan Fazili alias Eesa, in Anantnag on Sunday night.Amid violent protests, the authorities placed parts of Srinagar and south Kashmir under security restrictions. Educational institutions were closed and exams cancelled. Train services were suspended.Police said, Fazili and two others were killed during a search operation.The police identified the second slain militant as Syed Owais, an affiliate of the Hizbul Mujahideen, and a resident of Kokernag. “The identify of the third is being ascertained,” the police said adding that arms and ammunition, including AK-47 rifles, pistols, hand grenades were recovered from the encounter site.Fazili, a student of Bachelor of Technology of Baba Ghulam Shah University, had joined the militants in September last year and “was involved in a recent attack on a police guard post at Soura, in which one police constable was killed”, said the spokesman.The policeman’s killing was also claimed by the Islamic State-affiliated news magazine ‘Amaq’, fuelling speculation about local militants’ links with the group.Violent protestsViolent protests broke out as hundreds of locals participated in the funeral prayers of Fazili and Owais in Srinagar and Kokernag.The protesters raised green and black flags. A few protesters unfurled the IS flags in the procession held for Fazili. They chanted pro-azadi and pro-militant slogans. Security forces used smoke shells to control the situation.Clashes spread in large parts of Srinagar. Several vehicles were damaged by the stone-throwing protesters. Most offices and business centres also remained closed.Top separatist leaders, including Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik, were placed under house arrest.
Bula Choudhury powers her way to a string of medals: Sensational debutWhen her frail, waif-like figure joined the line-up for the start of her first race, the 200 m butterfly, the general reaction bordered on sympathy. Her 34 kg weight contained in a 138 cm frame, Bula Choudhury, the 12-year-old,Bula Choudhury powers her way to a string of medals: Sensational debutWhen her frail, waif-like figure joined the line-up for the start of her first race, the 200 m butterfly, the general reaction bordered on sympathy. Her 34 kg weight contained in a 138 cm frame, Bula Choudhury, the 12-year-old entrant from West Bengal was dwarfed both literally and figuratively by her better-known and more experienced rivals.The sympathy, however, soon changed to grudging admiration, incredulity and, finally, elation as the tiny figure powered its way to a sensational record-shattering win in the event, lopping off as much as 9.6 seconds from the existing mark. No individual performer in the meet could better an existing mark by a wider margin.The general belief that Choudhury’s effort was a flash in the pool was soon dispelled as she followed up her first day’s performance with a string of medal-winning performances. On the second day of the six-day meet she added a silver medal in the 100m backstroke followed by a silver in the 800m freestyle, a bronze in the 200m medley, two more silvers in the 100m and 200m freestyle, a gold in the 100m butterfly and another silver in the 400m freestyle.Her final tally of eight medals and 43 points, five points more than closest rival Persis Madan, won her the best swimmer of the meet title and a place in Indian sporting history. Her sensational debut in the nationals, at the age of 12, is an all-time record in itself and guaranteed her a place in the relay quartet for the Brisbane Commonwealth Games as well as a prominent place on the list of Asiad probables. Says current coach Bernad Johnke: “Bula is far superior to the other 14 girls in my camp and easily the best potential in the country. She is at an early age when her body is not yet fully formed and so she can adapt better to techniques that will help improve her timings.”advertisementSelf-trained: Obviously, in that tiny frame, is a budding powerhouse, a bundle of talent, grit and going-for-gold determination. Incredibly enough, Choudhury is largely self-trained. The third of four children born to a petty trader (a wholesale dealer in combs), Bula took to water like the proverbial duck. At age six, she plunged into a local pond which became her future training ground and only graduated to the Ganges river nearby when she outgrew the pond.”Even now, she goes as often as possible to the river to swim,” says her proud mother, Bakul, who chaperons her on her various aquatic appearances. Bula’s potential and her young age make her the most exciting swimming prospect the country has had in decades. Now that she has joined the Asiad training camps and Johnke has taken her under his wing, she has the potential to develop into a champion, if not in the coming Asiad then in the next one in 1986 when she will be 16.Though not overawed by the adulation and her triumphs last fortnight, Bula still displays a childish naivety and a schoolgirlish air. That is hardly surprising considering she is still in the eighth standard at the Rajmohan Paul Balika Vidyalaya in Calcutta. When a sudden attack of fever sent her into hospital at the end of the Trial Games, and tragically aborted her hopes of accompanying the Indian team to Brisbane, she displayed more worry about what her school friends would say than disappointment at not being able to go. “I promised them I would make it to Brisbane and now how can I face them?” she wailed.Her talent, however, has earned her a Rs 900 Central Government scholarship which pays for her schooling and her training. What she has clearly lacked so far is a balanced and proper diet and expert guidance. Now that she has the benefit of both, Bula Choudhury seems all set to become a female Mark Spitz.