Although more women in Madagascar are using modern contraceptives than ever before, their use has hovered at approximately 35 percent. Certainly, modest improvements in addressing the unmet needs of contraceptive use have been hailed across the country. But for women and girls living in remote communities, it is a different story. Women and girls in remote areas of Madagascar suffer from a double burden given the limitations posed by their physical locations and the interruptions posed to supply chains. The need to improve access to family planning in rural communities presents a great challenge and, in turn, warrants innovative strategies to help expand access in remote areas. In response, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Improving Market Partnerships and Access to Commodities Together (IMPACT) program in Madagascar has begun to explore the use of drone technology to deliver family planning resources.
In October 2019, IMPACT began exploring how drone technology could be used to improve access to essential drugs for communities in need. By piloting drone technology, the IMPACT program was successful in maximizing efficiencies to respond to stock-out challenges at supply points. Where it would usually take two to three months to make contraceptives available, the drone technology could deliver products in just one hour. After watching a video on the drone-use pilot and seeing how successful it was, Banyan Global’s Gender and Social Inclusion Specialist on IMPACT, Malanto Rabary, realized the potential that drones could offer in facilitating access to contraceptives for excluded communities in remote areas. Indeed, the use of drones is reaching four critical objectives of Banyan Global’s gender and social inclusion role on the program: expanding the distribution of health commodities among target groups; addressing a gender and socially-inclusive balanced approach; promoting family planning health among women, girls, and entire communities in rural areas; and helping to fill the market in the social marketing sector. As IMPACT continues to test out new ways of using drone technology more consistently in the supply chain, stakeholder partners and rural communities themselves will stand to benefit from expanded access to priority medications for women in remote areas, including family planning medications like contraceptives and medications related to maternal and child health.
At this year’s celebrations of International Women’s Day in Tulear, Madagascar, IMPACT collaborated with the Ministry of Population and the National Women’s Council to showcase the opportunities that drone technology offers for remote communities. The IMPACT team screened a video which explained how drones could fill a critical gap in access to health products for marginalized populations in remote communities. Senior representatives from the Ministry of Population as well as the Chairwoman of the National Women’s Council were very interested in the potential that the drone technology offers, particularly to give women and girls in rural communities access to health commodities that are otherwise difficult to obtain. Senior level officials shared, “It is good to know that women from remote areas could now get contraceptives with the use of this drone. Thanks to IMPACT, as it helps improving the health status in Madagascar”. Through the IMPACT program’s signature commitment to gender and social inclusion, interventions continue to be designed with an express goal of addressing gender-specific dimensions to help strengthen the supply chain systems for USAID-funded maternal and child health, malaria, and family planning activities in Madagascar. IMPACT and the Banyan Global team will continue to collaborate to unlock solutions for addressing the most critical needs in maternal and child health, malaria, and family planning, so that health services and access can continue to grow more equitable for all.