Eight Malagasy women die per day while giving birth, either due to complications during the pregnancy or during delivery, according to a recently-published national Demographic and Health Survey (DHS).

Reporters Without Borders is very concerned about the still fraught political situation in Madagascar and its constant impact on the media. Several journalists have been harassed in recent weeks, a website was mysteriously blocked and a radio journalist was held for two weeks after being the victim of a heavy-handed arrest.

Madagascar's foreign minister has said that the Indian Ocean island's army-backed government was ready to hold elections before the end of 2009 if the "means" were available. Madagascar has been rocked by political instability since Andry Rajoelina took power in March from then president Marc Ravalomanana with the help of dissident soldiers -- a move that was labelled a coup by many countries and regional blocs.

Where many have tried and failed, now the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has called on Madagascar’s political rivals to consider peaceful dialogue to end months of political crisis. Heads of State of the 15-nation regional body met in South Africa on 20 June to consider the political and security situation in the Indian Ocean Island after the last mediation attempt by the African Union (AU) collapsed on 16 June.

Madagascar's armed forces are on maximum alert, days after African economic bloc COMESA declared military intervention to end the island's political crisis remained an option, the government said on Friday. Armed Forces Minister Noel Rakotonandrasana told Reuters that COMESA's stance, which has drawn criticism from both France and the United Nations, had to be taken seriously.