20 March 2017

Malawi Facing Population Explosion 'Time Bomb' - Teen Pregnancy Soars

Photo: Brian Dell
Old Town Lilongwe (file photo).

Malawi is said to be sitting on a ticking time bomb as the population is booming, according to figures contained in the latest Malawi Demographic and Health Survey (MDH) released last week.

The country's population is growing at a rate of 3.32 percent per annum while Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth late is at 2.9 percent as of last year.

When population growth rate is higher than GDP growth rate, argues development economists, it means GDP per capita, which is a measure of the total output of a country, diminishes considerably.

Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe said enormous population explosion neutralizes whatever economic progress the country makes.

"The high population is exerting a lot of pressure to our economy," said Gondwe, urging itizens to slow down in making babies.

"As a country we have made tremendous gains over the years but why the impact is not reflected on our economy, is because the gains have been dissipated by population growth," said Gondwe.

Authorities are being urged to put in place measures to curb the population growth with the fear that the nation will be passing on poverty to the next generation instead on passion on wealth.

It is learnt that teenagers are failing to heed warnings about under-age sex, leading to soaring numbers of unplanned pregnancies contributing to high population growth and child and neonatal dearths.

The MDH survey for 2015/16 shows that more girls aged between 15 and 19 are bearing children and that 29 percent of teenagers had given birth. This figure was four percentage points higher than what was recorded in the last DHS in 2010.

Mission director for USAID Littleton Tazewell made an impassionate plea to various stakeholders to make use of the results of the MDHS to inform policy and programmes for the benefit of Malawians.

"The MDHS shows impressive gains in key areas however Malawi's population growth rate threatens to reverse these gains. We have improved health of mothers and children, we have reduced the mortality rate for children under 5, there are more women using birth control but unfortunately, population growth is outpacing economic and with a projected 41.2 million population by 2050, this is jeopardising the gains reflected in DHS," he said.

Tazewell said it was time every stakeholder aggressively engaged youth especially adolescent girls and young women to accelerate the decline of population growth.

Launching the report, Gondwe asked the stakeholders not to just look at the statistics, but the impact the findings could have in informing policies and interventions.

He said: "We need to look at what we could do more and where we are failing. It is not enough to just attend meetings, get documents and throw them away but at the same time it should be emphasised where we are doing well."

The MDHS is a collection of data at national level which calculates key demographic indicators, particularly fertility and under-5 and adult mortality rates among others.

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