The United States Government has warned Malawi’s increasing population is more challenging to the Southern nation and may affect its growth and development strategies and goals.
The warning was made in the country’s capital, Lilongwe, on Tuesday at the start of a two day national leader’s conference on Family Planning, Population and Development under the theme “Sustainably Achieving Vision 2020 and Malawi Growth and Development Strategy Goals Together through family planning.
The tiny impoverished African country has over 14 million people with a fertility rate of 5.7 children per family with maternal mortality ratio standing at 675 per 100,000 live births after being reduced from 807 per 100,000 births in 2006.
Speaking at the conference USAID Malawi Country Director Doug Arbuckle noted that Malawi’s recent high population growth has put tremendous pressure on its meager public resources thereby endangering achievement of its development strategies.
However, the country director commended the country for its commitment in implementing family planning services.
Said Arbuckle: “To slow population growth, Malawi has demonstrated its commitment to expanding family planning services, which is reflected in the impressive gains in contraceptive prevalence rates reported in the recent Demographic and Health Survey.”
He noted that Malawi had the expertise and a wonderful community of family planning advocates and organisations that are completely devoted to ensuring that women access to family planning services.
Arbucjkle then assured his government’s continued support on family planning issues to the government of President Joyce Banda.
“As a committed partner to Malawi’s economic growth, development and improved health, US Government is proud to be part of this event and join the Government in this commitment” he said.
Malawi’s Vice President Khumbo Kachali who was the guest of honour expressed worry when he officially opened the conference with the increasing number of children being borne- at an average of six per family- saying “this is straining on the country’s resources.”
“The country’s fertility rate at 5.7 children per family is stubbornly high, unacceptable and worrisome,” he told the delegates over 200 delegates.
He added: “The problem is that when a Malawian family has five or six children then you think you have accomplished something in life.”
Kachali also bemoaned the tendency by most Malawian men who think family planning is women’s issue and not men, a development he observed leads to high fertility rate.
“This is an old thinking, let us reposition ourselves with the modern thinking,” said Kachali who is also Minister of Health.
Meanwhile, Malawi has been nominated as this year’s recipient of the Resolve Award by the Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health in recognition of its efforts in investing in reproductive health.
This was announced by UNFPA Resident Representative in Malawi Athanase Nzokirishaka who also revealed that the country will receive the award at a ceremony to be held in Geneva, Switzerland in two weeks time.
Nzokirishaka, however, said yesterday despite the award the country still has a long way to go in tackling reproductive health problems.
One of Malawi’s several challenges is the population which is one of the fastest growing in the world with the total fertility rate at 5.7 remaining high despite an increase in contraceptive prevalence rate now at 42 per cent. The unmet need for family planning also continues to remain high at 26 per cent.
The two-day conference is being attended by members of the civil society, religious groups, traditional authorities and local and international experts in health.