Population growth and development

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Population growth versus extended family structure — P3 Rapid Population Growth: Should I Care? — P7

Malawi: Time to look at population growth

Special Essay:


Special pullout the nation 26 march 2013


population growth and development

special essay

n Malawi, as in many other African countries, children are equated to wealth, such that the more children you have, the ‘wealthier’ you are supposed to be. This is probably why, culturally, people never discuss the everincreasing population problem that currently threatens the country’s development. Contrast this situation with China, which has made tremendous progress in controlling its population growth, thereby improving its economic status. Through its policy of one-child-per-family, China has managed to uplift about 400 million of its people from poverty in the past 10 years. As such, the country has managed to cater for its population from increased economic growth, while Malawi continues to wallow in poverty. Abject poverty is really haunting us as a country. Most demographers agree that the world does not have enough food to feed the ever-increasing populations, nor does it have enough resources to lift Third World populations from poverty. This means our unabated population increase is further degenerating us into poverty. It is estimated that about 80 percent of the country’s population lives on less than one dollar a day. Being one of the world’s poorest countries, it is certainly retrogressive that Malawi should still have a high birth rate. According to the 2010 Demographic Health Survey (DHS), a woman in Malawi will give birth to an average of 5.7 children in her lifetime. The country’s population of about 15 million is estimated to reach 60 million in 2050. This inevitably means that illiteracy rates will continue to be high, infrastructure inadequate and health services rudimentary. Malawi is growing fast because it is young, with 54 percent of the country’s population being below the age of 18, according to the DHS. Given the high birth rates, it is likely that many of these people will have big families, knowing that despite ongoing efforts to combat malnutrition and HIV, there is a strong risk that their children will die. Experts say the most tangible result of population growth in the country is a shift from rural to urban areas. Currently, about nine out of 10 people still live in rural areas and depend on farming to survive. But as people, especially the youth, increasingly move from the rural to the city, the situation will also pose new challenges of providing urban jobs, housing, energy and infrastructure to mitigate urban poverty, expansion of slums and a deterioration of the urban environment. At a time when climate

by Edyth Kambalame Features Editor

Continued increase in population will worsen poverty

Malawi: Time to look at population growth
change is taking its toll on the country, with floods, droughts and erratic rainfall affecting crops in the agricultural-based economy, there is anxiety that the country will be unable to produce enough food, or especially water, to meet its soaring needs. According to the UNHabitat, a “tripling of urban populations could spell disaster unless urgent action is initiated today. This situation threatens stability and also entire nations.” This is why we commend government for revising the 1994 National Population Policy, with the new policy being launched yesterday. This is the much needed evidence of government’s commitment to ensuring the country makes progress. While the previous policy focused on reducing the growth rate of the population, government says the current one is aimed at supporting the achievement of sustainable socio-economic development as envisaged in the national development agenda and international development framework. But how do we ensure that we achieve this? We may not necessarily have to take the China route and introduce a one-child-per-family policy, but the country’s high fertility rates and the population projections are certainly cause for concern and require serious attention. Hopefully, the Revised National Population Policy will lead to action that will further lead to birth rates going down, improved health care so that parents do not have many children for fear of losing some, access to modern contraception and, crucially, investment in girls’ education because this results in their marrying later and having fewer children. I was encouraged the other day to hear President Joyce Banda say, during a rally, that families are better off with better-spaced births as they lead to healthier children and lower maternal mortality and morbidity. This kind of political will is encouraging and a sign that things are beginning to change, but I feel the tempo is still slow. Given the situation Malawi is in, we should be talking numbers, encouraging families to have three children at most. The benefits of having fewer children far outweigh the comfort that comes with having many children in the fear that if some die, you still have others left, yet you can hardly provide for them. It is clear that in Malawi, population growth has far exceeded government’s capacity to provide its citizens with basic needs such as food, quality education, health care, and thus denied the country the economic development it needs to graduate from poverty. The launch of the Revised National Population Policy is timely because it gives government, the private sector, civil society organisations and other stakeholders an opportunity to come together to shape how we can reduce poverty, advance social equity and ensure environmental protection in our country. It also gives a basis for the different stakeholders to hold each other accountable where progress is failing. I believe most Malawians share my expectation for our leaders to come up with concrete action plans to realise sustainable development for the future we want. The key to development and our hope for a brighter future lies in giving life to the National Population Policy! n

PHOTOGRAPH: Nation Library

Special pullout the nation 26 mARCH 2013


Family planning at family level may not the best intervention in slowing population explosion in a country defined by extended families. What could be the solution, then? EPHRAIM NYONDO writes.

Population growth versus extended family structure
and dropped to 5.7 in 2010. However, Jesman Chintsanya, a lecturer in population studies at the University of Malawi’s Chancellor College, argues that there has not been much change to the fertility rate. “Mortality rates have dropped sharply as public health measures have improved. However, the average number of births a woman has during her lifetime, has not decreased as fast, leading to rapid population growth,” he says. The 2010 DHS shows that the country’s population has grown rapidly from almost four million in 1966 to 14.8 million in 2012. UN population projections show that Malawi’s population could easily reach 23 million in 2025 and 50 million in 2050 if families continue to have, on average, six children. “Malawi is among the least developed countries with high fertility and rapidly growing population, high levels of unmet need for family planning. With an annual population growth rate of 2.8 percent, 5.7 children per woman, 139 people per square kilometre, Malawi has one of the highest growth rates and is amongst the most densely populated countries in sub-Saharan Africa,” UNFPA programme manager Dr. Thomas Munthali said last year. Martha Kwataine, director of the Malawi Health Equity Network (Mhen) warns this trend is increasing food insecurity, environmental degradation and poverty levels. Take fish stocks, for instance. In 2011, Raphael Mwenenguwe, research officer for the Research Into Use Office, told the media that the amount of fish supply from Lake Malawi had declined from about 30 000 metric tonnes a year 15 to 20 years ago to 2 000 tonnes a year. Mwenenguwe argued that the drop in the lake’s water levels in recent years is a result of population growth and overfishing. In 2010, the director of fisheries, Alexander Bulirani, told the media that the number of fishers on the lake has more than doubled in the last decade. It is not just about fish stocks—the main source of protein in the country. A number of hills and mountains in the country are facing depletion due to increased human encroachment for charcoal PAGE 5

population growth and development


he house leaks when it rains. Its two windows— one for the sitting room and the other for the only bedroom—are covered by some fading black plastic papers that darken the house even during a sunny midday. In a usual version of the story, you would expect this house to belong to a bachelor or a spinster. Or, for worse, not more than three people occupying it. Yet, this house in Mpunga Village, Traditional Authority Ndindi, a one and half hour drive from Salima boma, belongs to a married couple with seven children. “This is what we could manage,” says Lakumizinga Theni, looking at the ground while seated on the khonde. Her husband does not have a job. Lake Malawi is almost 10 kilometres from the house, and fishing has been his main source of income. But the dwindling fish stocks over years coupled with increased number of fishers forced Theni to diversify to farming. Yet, even in the maize they grow, with seven children to feed, clothe and educate, the going is rough. “We are struggling—very hard. The family is too big for our income,” continues Theni. But her family was not that big just a year ago. In a rural village setting where a woman’s fertility rate, according to the 2010 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS), hovers at 6.1 compared to 4.0 in urban areas, Theni’s family was a shining light of change. They only have two sons. Of course, their having two sons is not out of choice. The two decided to stop to safeguard the wife’s health as she always gave birth through Caesarean section. “My husband agreed we should not have any more children. But no one in our village understands it. As women, we are supposed to give more children to our husband. Some have eight, nine—even more than that sometimes,” she says. This means if it were not for her health, the Thenis, who will be celebrating eight years in marriage this August, could

Theni with six of her children
probably have had more children today. But if that were the case, could they have managed to give them proper care given their economic situation? “Children are a gift from God. It is God who takes care of them. We are just God’s messengers to carry out His wish. I am convinced God could have given us means to look after them, just like all others,” she reasons. When Theni thought that having two children to look after was fate, the death of her young sister last year changed everything. She died while giving birth to her fifth child. “She was 26 and married. After her death, the husband packed his belongings and left for his home. The children were left alone. “It could have been easier if she left behind at a least a child or two. Though I am not complaining, but raising five more is a big challenge. God will give us a way,” she complains. If Malawi were like some developed countries where each family caters for its own problems, Theni would probably not have been burdened by her sisters’ failure to contain her childbearing. The children could have, at least, ended up in an orphanage or a childcare centre. However, Malawi has an extended family structure— what happens to your kin’s

Kwataine: It is increasing food insecurity
family also affects you. As such, Theni was left without choice but to take responsibility of the children, even the baby. As the country continues to struggle with population explosion, Theni’s story brings an interesting aspect of the challenges of containing population in societies with extended families such as Malawi. The question, then, is: When one family fails to appreciate the importance of family planning, what should be the role of other families within the context of extended families? Over the last two decades, there has been a marginal drop in the country’s fertility rates, something analysts argue as the main culprit behind population explosion. It was 6.2 in 1992

PHOTOGRAPH: Nation Library

PHOTOGRAPH: Nation Library


Special pullout the nation 26 march 2013

Youthful population boom a ticking bomb

population growth and development



all him Joe or Rasta, as his friends prefer calling him. The 20-year-old is one of many youthful Malawians doing menial work to survive the effects of scarce job opportunities amid rapid population growth. When we met in Limbe recently, he was screaming at people to board a minibus to Mbayani, Chirimba, Chileka Roundabout and Lunzu via Blantyre central business district. Such were his hoarse exclamations that he fears his vocal chords are already torn. His profession is illegal. Police officers arrest him almost monthly following Operation Dongosolo which saw vendors and minibus callers expelled from the streets of Malawi in 2006. “Minibus touts have been playing hide-and-seek with police officer for seven years, but if I allow them to stop me working, I will be my neighbour’s laughing stock. I don’t want to go begging for food, clothes and housing,” says the young man who quit school in Form One four years ago. Typical of the country’s highspeed urbanisation, the young Malawian left his home in the rural parts of Chiradzulu in search of better chances in life, but minibus touting has left him haunted by running battles with the police, monthly arrests, demeaning comments from passersby, alcoholism, poor body hygiene, accusation of crimes happening on the streets and “lots more things” he refuses to share. A population puzzle With the 2008 Housing and Population Census showing that the country is home to 15 million people, the issue of minibus touts could be more than just about lapses in law and order in the country’s cities. City residents, city council executives and police spokespersons commend the crackdown on Joe and company with reducing crime, noise, garbage and congestion in major towns. However, the influx of the youthful minibus callers could be just a tip of rapid population growth in a country where limited economic opportunities and social services are under pressure. In 2005, the State-funded Integrated Household Survey showed about 80 percent of Malawians are employed in the agricultural sector, the backbone of the country’s economy. However, Joe says he left his village in Chiradzulu District, which has 300 000 people, because land is becoming

Minibus touts: Defying the law for survival
scarce. He now lives with three friends in Makhetha, one of the congested townships in the city whose population is hovering around 900 000. According to the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UNHabitat) , two out of three urban residents live in slum settlements. The high-density areas, according to The State of African Cities, the UN initiative’s 2010 publication, shows such areas are highly vulnerable to poor environmental sanitation and lack of basic social services, livelihood opportunities and security. “If not planned for, urbanisation could result in increased concentration of poverty in urban areas and frustrate efforts to reduce poverty,” warns the 2010 assessment. The minibus tout reckons urban poverty is already biting, saying: “Whereas rural dwellers usually grow their own food, we, town dwellers, have to cough money on nearly everything, including tubes of water”. On a good day, he says, he earns about K2 000 from his illicit trade, a sum much higher than what most vendors, minibus crew, guards and cooks get. Counting the costs When he is not in a police cell, he is likely to cook his breakfast and supper using charcoal—a source of fuel which is often blamed for deforestation as about 90 percent of the population is not connected to the national electricity grid. UN Food and Agriculture Organisation figures show that the country, with an annual deforestation rate of 2.8 percent, lost about 17 percent of its cover between 1990 and 2010. According to UNFPA population and development manager Thomas Chataghalala Munthali, unsustainable use of natural resources due to a population boom growth costs the nation $191 million or five percent of its gross domestic product—what it needs for economic growth—ever year. “Rapid population growth places enormous pressure on natural resources such as forests, water, and land. Already-scarce farmland must be divided among more people, resulting in smaller plots and poorer land quality,” said Munthali at media training in Salima last year. A youthful menace The population growth rate jumped by 32 percent from 1998 to 2008, the year Census figures showed that over 54 percent of the total population is younger than 20 years—a new scare on shared resources and state budget. Government acknowledges that the population bulge, with large numbers of the youth coming of age and marrying, has sobering implications for delivery of basic social services such as education, health facilities, security, job opportunities, housing, electricity and water supply which are currently insufficient. In 2010, the Ministry of Finance warned that as the current crop of young people come of age and marry, they form a “basis for future population growth” for a country where people rebuffed a government proposal of four children per family. “Even if they have fewer children than the previous generations, the sheer number of parents will contribute to rapid population growth. Due to this momentum, Malawi will continue to grow for the next few generations, even if average family size declines,” reads the ministry’s advocacy booklet, Rapid Population Growth. The census trends shows the population grew from about three million in 1950 to 15 million in 2008 and a 2010 World Population Prospects by the UN shows the figure will reach 60 million by 2050 and more than 120 million by 2100. And those projections assume that fertility will drop to between two and three children per woman. “This growth is mostly driven by high fertility, which has declined modestly from 7.2 children per woman in 1970 to 5.8 children per woman in 2010,” reads the 2010 Health and Demographic Survey conducted three years ago. The fertility rate means that every couple is likely to have six children on average, calling for smaller families and intensified efforts to bring family planning options closer to the people. Interestingly, the countrywide health survey highlights gaps that need to be addressed. Although access to contraception increased from 13 percent in 1992 to 46 percent in 2010, findings show 26 percent of married women who want to postpone their next birth or stop childbearing altogether do not access or use contraception. Cutting the costs Reaching out to the 54 percent that are not using the unreached 54 percent will help the peaking population stabilise. With slower population growth, government will save more funds to provide education for every Malawian child, a reliable health system and more employment opportunities for the likes of Joe the minibus tout who makes the police budget weighty. n

PHOTOGRAPH: Nation Library

Special pullout the nation 26 mARCH 2013



population growth and development


alawi’s population has grown rapidly from about four million in 1966 to almost 15 million in 2012. UN population projections further warn that figures could easily reach 24 million in 2025 and 47 million in 2050 if families continue to have, on average, six children. This rise, on the other hand, should not just be seen from a negative prism. In 1965, Emily Boserup, a Danish economist, pushing ‘necessity is the mother of all invention’ theory, asserted that an increase in population would stimulate technologists and scientists to increase food production. “Any increase in population would increase the demand for food and so act as an incentive to change agrarian (farming) technology and produce more food,” she wrote. This may explain Genetically Modified Foods (GMO) and various agricultural technologies the world has witnessed since the 1970s? In fact, Boserups’ descendants, using the example of the rise of China—the world’s most populous nation—further argues that a big population is necessary because it provides enough labour and market for production processes. However, for a country like Malawi, whose production capacity is low and almost 80 percent of the people are rooted to a small piece of customary land, deriving their livelihood from rain-fed agriculture, containing population, says Martha Kwataine, is a must. Kwataine, executive director of Malawi Health Equity Network (Mhen), says: “There is tremendous pressure on resources which are not expanding. We must contain the [population] growth or our development agenda will be derailed,” she says. Containing Malawi’s population growth begins with understanding what fuels it. Experts point, mostly, to two factors. One, a decline in mortality experienced since the 1950s due to improvements in

To curb population growth, invest in girls
nutrition and health care, and two, high levels of fertility that have remained unchanged since 2004. There is nothing wrong, of course, with the decline in mortality. But there is something terribly wrong in the high levels of fertility that does not appear to tone down for the past two decades. According to the 2010 Malawi Demographic and Health Survey (MDHS), it was 6.7 in 1992 and by 2010 it dropped to 5.7. It remains so to date. Jesman Chintsanya, a population studies lecturer at Chancellor College, attributes the marginal drop in fertility rates to early marriages and pregnancies. He is right. Defined as marriages of those below 18, early marriages in Malawi occur mostly in rural areas. In fact, if it was not for interventions by Creative Centre for Community Development (Creccom) in 2011, Flora Zandivuta, then 14, from an impoverished Mchacha Village, T/A Tengani, Nsanje, could have been married off. Both parents, blind and helpless, are too poor to fend for the girl. They live on charities. Actually, parents like these here in Mchacha marries off their girls not just to get favours from the suitors but also to relieve themselves from the burden of parentage. Most of Zandivuta’s age mates are married off. Though such parents may have a relief, the cost of their decisions weighs heavily on the nation that wants its population growth reduced. Fertility rate for rural women like Flora, according MDHS 2010, stands at 6.1, something quite higher compared to their age-mates in urban areas where it is 4.1. To mean, by the time she reaches menopause, Flora could have given birth to not less than arrange these marriages and young girls have no choice. Poor families marry off young daughters to reduce the number of children they need to feed, clothe and educate,” he says. However, over the years, there has been a realisation that sending girls to school is a critical aspect of containing population. “We want to allow the girl child to continue with education, to become a learned citizen who can contribute to the development and economy of the country,” says Dr. Mary Shawa, Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Welfare. Doing that is not just the right thing to do but also the smart thing. Consider the virtuous circle. Zandibvuta is now 15 and in Standard Eight, but according to UNFPA, an extra year in education would boost her eventual wages by 10 percent to 20 percent. “An extra year of secondary school adds 15 percent to 25 percent. Girls who stay in school for seven or more years typically marry four years later and have two fewer children than girls who drop out. Fewer dependents per worker allows for greater economic growth,” says the UNFPA report. The World Food Programme has also found that when girls and women earn income, they reinvest 90 percent of it in their families: They buy books, medicine, bed nets; for men, that figure is more like 30 percent to 40 percent. “Investment in girls’ education may well be the highest-return investment available in the developing world,” Larry Summers wrote when he was chief economist at the World Bank. And that highest return, in the first place, begins with the fact that it helps combat population growth—Malawi’s number one threat to development. n

Zandivuta is now back to school
six children. The tragedy of it all is that, globally, Malawi ranks among the 10 countries with highest instances of early marriages. The UNFPA states at least half of young women in Malawi are married before the age of 18. Surely, as argued by Chintsanya, the fight against combating population growth in Malawi is incomplete if early marriages do not take the centre stage. But how should it be done? “Early marriage, something that has existed for centuries, is a complex issue, rooted deeply in gender inequality, tradition and poverty,” says Ruth Mandala, a postgraduate student of Africa gender history at Chancellor College. “The practice is most common in rural and impoverished areas, where prospects for girls can be limited. In many cases, parents

Population growth and the extended family structure
PAGE 3 making and cultivation. Yet, against this, argued Dr Munthali, several studies reveal that women will shoulder more of the worst burden than men. “Women and girls bear most of the burden in activities that are most impacted because they are primary providers of a number of household essentials such as water, firewood for energy, food. In addition, the changing demographics, as a result of the impacts of the HIV and Aids epidemic, have meant that women take up greater responsibilities, such as taking care of the sick and orphans,” he said. Surely, as Malawi and the world improve health and reduce mortality by focusing on the Millennium Development Goals, Malawi’s population growth will continue to pose challenges for its development, unless families have fewer children. Malawi has made substantial improvements in addressing its population issues, especially by increasing its use of modern contraceptive methods, currently at 42 percent. Equally interesting is the fact that at least 92 percent of women of childbearing age, according to the DHS, are aware of family planning methods. Yet for Malawi to achieve its full set of goals in its Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS), it must address population growth. “Family planning,” says Kwataine of Mhen, “is a key strategy to achieving our goals. The popular slogan “Children by Choice” tells us that we need to decide if and when to have children. Family PAGE 6

PHOTOGRAPH: ephraim nyondo


Special pullout the nation 26 march 2013

population growth and development


‘Families should work together in controlling population’
PAGE 5 planning can ease pressure on available resources, contribute to sustainable economic growth and development, and lead to a healthy and prosperous nation.” Of course, through the government interventions and the Family Planning Association of Malawi (FPAM), there have been a number of family planning interventions. “Currently we are not just intensifying sensitisation and mobilisation of communities on family planning issues through, among others, their chiefs,” Area Development Committees (ADC) and health officials. “We are also intensifying service provision through trained personnel who works as volunteers,” says Mathias Chatuluka, FPAM’s executive director. President Joyce Banda’s Maternal Health and Safe Motherhood initiative, launched in 2012 to achieve universal access to reproductive health services, also focuses on the community as an area that demands intervention. “With the way our families are organised, we need family planning interventions that should target the community together. We should be policing each other because what happens in one family affects us all,” says T/A Maganga from Salima. In fact, even Theni agrees. “We need families to come together to control childbearing,” she says. n

Parliament recently passed the Gender Equality Bill. What is in it for women and calls for children by choice, not by chance? JAMES CHAVULA writes.

From rhetoric to reality
According to Family Planning Association of Malawi (Fpam) executive director Mathias Chatuluka, it is about women empowerment as much as keeping rapid population growth in check. “It gives women the opportunity to broaden their choices and decision-making at a time most of them cannot make family planning decision their partners’ consent,” says Chatuluka. He reckons the enactment of the law is a prelude for government to fulfil its commitment to increase access to contraceptives. He dubbed the country’s fertility rate is “very high”, saying the success of the new legislation does not only depend on availability of contraceptives but also sensitising men to understand and respect women’s sexual and reproductive health rights. “Keeping population in control mostly depends on efforts that we put in place to ensure the level of fertility declines. Contraceptives are one of them,” says Chatuluka. Census trends show the country’s population grew from about 3 million in 1950 to 15 million in 2010. This growth is mostly driven by high fertility, which according to countrywide demographic and health surveys has declined from 7.2 children per woman in 1970 to 5.8 children per woman in 2010. To turn the Gender Equality Bill rhetoric into reality, government and its partners must strive to bring contraceptives and sensitization closer to the unreached population (54 percent), including 26 percent of married women who want to postpone their next birth or stop childbearing altogether but are unable to access or use contraception. Fortunately, there increasing demand for smaller families—and use of modern contraception jumped from 13 percent to 46 percent between 1992 and 2010. n


or Gertrude Patel, some of her five children are haunting blessings. “I wish I had one or two children, but babies kept coming unexpectedly,” says Patel, 31, a resident of Mbeluko Village, sub-T/A Khwethemule, Thyolo, who adopted family planning after her latest childbirth last year. The woman admittedly chose Norplant contraceptive method after joining star circles. Organised by Creative Centre for Community Mobilisation (Crecom), members of the village-based discussion groups meet every week to discuss community action against harmful cultural practices, gender inequalities and reproductive health issues. She says having the liberty to choose when to have children finally makes her “free to look after herself, family members and a small-scale business”. If Patel’s wishes for the unreached were laws, 2008 census would not have recorded that a Malawian woman is likely to have nearly six children in a lifetime. In January this year, President Joyce Banda described the fertility rate as “considerably high” and “development challenge”, saying: “We must make more to make family planning a critical pillar of its maternal health programmes.” Despite the tough talk, Patel wishes women had a say on matters affecting their sexual and reproductive health, including when to have children. She wishes they had access to information on birth control at a time the 2010 Malawi Demographic and Health Survey (MDHS) shows about half of the women population has no access to contraceptives. “It is in our culture that a couple cannot start family planning with one child or two,

The Bill empowers women to control their fertility
but experience has taught me that five are one too many, an accident. It is not easy to satisfy their needs: food, clothing, housing and school,” says the woman. Her family survives on earnings from seasonal maize farming and plucking tea in the neighbouring estates. Like her colleagues, she prefers calling her area. The decried situation and their way of living are common in Mbeluko. Locals prefer calling the village “an island” in the sprawling Satemwa Tea Estate. Its village head says he was crowned in 1969 when the village was a “bush with houses far from each other”. He laments that the size, vegetative canopy and fertility of their farming land is under threat due to an increasing population whose survival depends on agriculture. “The entire bush is gone. Now we have about 847 households scrambling for land and other natural resources, our children sharing the same pieces of land our parents had. This threatens food security at household level,” says Group Village Head Mbeluko. Mbeluko is just one of the many communities suffering effects of population growth. But the village head’s sentiments put in perspective Patel’s wishes. But her prayer is almost answered—thanks to the passing of the Gender Equality Bill in Parliament last month. “Every person has the right to adequate sexual and reproductive health which includes the right to, (a) access to sexual and reproductive health services, (b) access to family planning services, (c) control fertility, (d) choose an appropriate method of contraception...” reads Section 19 of the legislation awaiting the signature of the President. Gender activists have welcomed the law as a massive step towards bridging gender gaps 20 years after the restoration of democracy in the country, but religious leaders under Muslim Association of Malawi, Malawi Council of Churches and Episcopal Conference of Malawi want government to scrutinise and clarify ambiguities it implies abortion is no longer illegal in the country. However, the so-called ambiguous section suggests how to tackle the primary cause of all abortions: unwanted pregnancies. Where some women have faced reprisals for seeking contraceptives, it gives women a voice on how children they want to have.

PHOTOGRAPH: Nation Library

Special pullout the nation 26 mARCH 2013


Pushpa Jamieson Contributor


ne of the most frequently asked questions by a nation of its government is: “What is the government doing to provide better services for its people?” While this is a very valid question, we need to also ask: “What part is the nation playing to make this possible?” Government providing a service for the people is very much like undertaking any other business. The logical thing is first to find out what people need and then to provide it adequately. The government, just like a business person, knows the story about demand and supply. Normally, as demand for a product continues to grow, so must production increase to meet the needs of the consumer. Unfortunately, this is where service provision and business sense part ways. Meeting the needs of people by ensuring that everyone has access to basic essential services such as schools, health facilities, food, water, clothes and all the other basic things that a person needs in order to live as a human being is certainly what any government should be aiming to achieve. The reality at the moment is that no matter how much the government is investing in these essential public services, it is not satisfactorily meeting the needs of the people. The demand for services is far greater than what is available because the services are failing to keep up with the demands of such a fast and rapidly growing population. It is a given fact that no matter how much the government ploughs into services, it will not be able to keep up with the population demands. The number of people that are accessing these services far outweighs what is being invested. There needs to be a conscious decision made by individuals to play their part in making public services available, accessible and of good quality. There is a certain responsibility that individuals should take upon themselves to make this possible. It cannot be left to the government alone to provide these essential services because, no matter what is done to meet the demand made by the people, this will never happen if the population continues to outgrow the viability of service provision. Supply of services will never meet the demand of people if they do not come on board and individually realise their own responsibility in the matter and effectively play their part. It is a fact that as our population continues to grow fast and at such an alarming rate, it will not be possible for basic services such as hospitals and schools to cater and meet the demands of the people. At present, research on

Rapid population growth: Should I care?
population growth shows that the average woman of child bearing age of between 15 years to 45 years will in her lifetime have six children. This is a real concern, especially when it is a known fact that the largest percentage of the population in Malawi is in that age group; and that over 52 percent of the population are women who are in that age bracket. The current data indicates that if women continue to have children at the present rate, the population will grow from the present 14 million in the year 2012 to 23 million by the year 2030, rising to 60 million in 2050. As a nation, we add 400 000 people every year to our population. Can Malawi really sustain this? Going on a site visit during training on “Population and Youth Development” that was undertaken by Population Reference Bureau (PRB) with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), journalists saw, first hand just how young girls having children plays a significant role in the rapid increase in the population of our nation. In the Central Region, accompanied by Maxwell Thyolera the Member of Parliament for Lilongwe North and Group Village Headman Maseche, journalist visited an organisation called Centre for Youth and Social Development (CYSDE) that aims to inform young girls about reproductive health and the importance of education for empowerment. CYSDE in the north of Lilongwe has several girls between the ages of 13 to 18, who are members of the organisation already having a baby. Florence Masala is 18 years old and has, with assistance of CYSDE returned to school after dropping out of school for three years to have and look after her babies. She is expecting to do her Junior Certificate (JC) this year and is determined that nothing will distract her from this goal again. The challenge that Florence has is that she, at 18 years already has two children. Her first child was born when she was 14 years old and the second child was born when she was 17. After deciding to return to school, and armed with information she has received from counsellors, she sought a family planning method that suited her. “I do not plan to have any more children, at least • •

population growth and development

…….is it my problem or my responsibility?
development and health goals Provide persuasive evidence of the positive impact of family planning on achieving sustainable national development Persuade target audiences to take specific actions to address rapid population growth and to promote family planning as a strategy for addressing national development goals across all sectors Increase commitment to mobilising resources for family planning and reproductive health commodity security at the national, regional and district levels Generate policy dialogue to ensure that family planning is placed high on the national agenda Foster an enabling environment for review and implementation of the National Population Policy and other national policies that address population issues and reproductive health Encourage top-level leaders and politicians to actively and publicly promote family planning Increase understanding among target audiences of the reasons for and the most effective strategies for addressing continued high fertility

PHOTOGRAPH: pushpa jamieson

Masala: I do not plan to have more children
until I am 27 years and that will be my last,” she says. Sadly, Florence is just one of the many girls in this kind of situation. Her story is not unique in any way. Unfortunately, in fact it is quite normal and acceptable that very few girls in this age group will continue with their education and have an independent and financially secure future. Girls seemingly have no power to get out of the cycle of having unplanned babies because of financial difficulties, no resources for independence, lack of information and power to make choices. Youth, and especially girls - who are the majority of the population, should be awakened to take on the responsibility of reversing the trend and contribute to a reversal of the rapid growth of the population. Right now there is a “window period” where the youth can be targeted with information that will help them to make an informed choice on the size of the family they want. If this time and opportunity is missed, the consequences for the future will be dire. We need more youth that are thinking like Florence. If more girls in her age group remain in or return to school, it will play a major role in the reduction of the number of unplanned for and often unwanted children that are born. The slogan should be “Children by Choice’ rather than the present trend. They must have the right to decide how many if any, children to have in the future. Young people who are still child bearing age, and especially the youth need to have the information that will help them make informed choices about the number of children they want and their size of their families. A programme by Population Reference Bureau (PRB) that aims to inform decision makers to act (IDEA) entitled ENGAGE - highlights the benefit of having smaller families and clearly spells out how providing family planning information can help minimize the size of families and will benefit the nation to have a better quality of life in the future. The general objectives of ENGAGE are to: • Create an enabling policy environment to raise the profile of population issues and reposition family planning as an essential strategy to achieve national development goals. • Improve knowledge among target audiences about the costs and consequences of high fertility and rapid population growth on the nation’s economic,

Malawi has a population that is growing at a pace that cannot be sustained by service provision or even land availability. This land that we have called Malawi is not growing; it is the same area that will have to cater for 60 million people in the year 2050 at the current growth rate. As shocking as this may sound, it is worth a thought for all of us So? Is the rapid population growth my problem; should I care about rapid population growth in Malawi; is it my responsibility to try to play a part in slowing this unsustainable growth? The answer is: “It sure is!” unless you do not care about what will happen to the future generations of Malawi. The rapid population has to be the concern of every person, and every person should play their part in making sure the future is a better place because You and I cared. n


Special pullout the nation 26 march 2013

population growth and development


Another side of city life
ALBERT SHARRA Staff Reporter
erhaps, if 33-yearold Chrissy James of Chemwamadi Village, Traditional Authority Kalembo in Machinga, had enquired more about city life, she would not have left her village for life in Blantyre City’s slum of Zambia, where she is wallowing in dire poverty. James left her village five years ago in search of a better life. She needed to earn a living to support her elderly mother and her five children. “I decided to go and look for a job in Blantyre. Life was tough in the village. My father died when I was a small girl and my elderly mother cannot walk without support,” says the Standard Eight dropout. She says she moved to Blantyre six years ago with her five children. “I never got a job. I survive on piecework such as house cleaning and sometimes, I buy fruits that are in season and sell them at a profit,” says James. The money she makes is hardly enough to support her children, let alone her elderly mother in the village, but James feels her life is better than it would be in the village. “Life is hard, but it is worse in the village, where groceries are equally expensive and we can no longer rely on farming as fertiliser is always a problem,” says James. The house she lives in is roofed with old iron sheets that leak heavily during the rainy seasons. But she has no other option. She says most land owners have hiked their rentals and she cannot afford a better house in the city. She adds that her landlord understands her situation, and she now pays her rent in five instalments of K200 each. “Life is really tough for me and my family. I know my mother is starving in the village,” says the woman with sadness. James leaves home at 6am every day, knocking on the doors of residents in uptown residential areas, looking for piece work. She says she earns about K400 each day, which is not enough for a day’s meal, considering the current economic challenges. According to Centre for Social Concern (CfSC) January 2012 press statement on Malawi’s Growing Debt and Basic Needs, the cost of basic needs, excluding essential nonfood items for a family of six in Blantyre is K51 000 per month. This translates to about K1 500 per day. The one bed-roomed house


Ponyani with some of her children in their house
James rents shows the family is in dire poverty. The house is littered with kitchen-ware and a small plastic bag containing some flour. The family stores drinking water in a five-litre bottle. They have no lamp for lighting and cannot afford to buy a candle daily. They use a small fire place in the house for lighting during the night. The fire is very important for the family, says James. It warms up the house, keeping them comfortable through the night as they sleep undercloth wrappers (zitenje). Suffering more is her threeyear-old last-born child. She cannot stay day long without food. James says her breasts are now dry and she cannot breastfeed. She recounts that the toughest time comes after midday. “I am usually in tears during lunch hour. It is hard to control a child who is crying because of empty stomach and it pains me a lot because it means that I am failure. I don’t see any better future both for me and my children. They are all out of school because of lack of clothes. What sin did I commit to be like this,” laments the woman amid tears. She says she has been wanting to go back to the village, but she cannot raise transport. James is just one of the thousands of people who migrate from rural to urban areas hoping for a better life. Like James, Miriam Ponyani (29) of T/A Chikumbu in Mulanje left her home with a husband to try city life after economic struggles in the

James (R) at her house
village. She lives in a one roomed slum in the same area and can hardly afford two meals a day. She has five children and her husband does not work. She says she has a three-bedroomed grass-thatched house in the village. Ponyani’s husband, Luciano Mbwelera, says urban life has proved to be tough for him, but said he cannot go back to the village because he doesn’t have land for farming. The family lives on selling paraffin. They buy two litres at about K1 200 and sell it at K1 400. According to the 2008 National Statistical Office (NSO) Population and Housing Census report urban population is increasing at an alarming rate. Between 1987 and 2008, urban population has increased from 850 000 to two million. In 1998 urban population was 1.4 million. The 2011 report on urbanisation titled A Progressive Approach to Dialogue on Urbanisation in Malawi, says the country’s urban population will reach 50 percent from the recent 20 percent by 2050. This is sad news to the country and to people trekking into cities particularly on access to quality houses. Most houses are owned by low income people and are built in substandard state. The smallest population under local income level has access to Malawi Housing Cooperation (MHC) houses. This leaves the majority of urban dwellers living in slums and in non-residential areas. Both Blantyre and Lilongwe City Councils officials told The Nation of February 26, 2013 that they are challenged in handling poor housing in most locations because most constructions are being made in non-residential and traditional Areas where residents are at liberty to construct any type of house. Due to over population people are building small houses to fit in open gaps and the houses are detrimental and subjected falling during rainy seasons. n

PHOTOGRAPHS: albert sharra

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