Friday, July 12, 2013

World Population Day;Malawi challenges and ADRA response

By Elias Banda
11 July was World Population Day with the year's theme focusing on adolescent pregnancy. In Malawi the population officially stands at 13 million according to the 2008 Population and Housing Census. The 2008 census puts the growth rate at 2.8 percent per year and that 19 percent of the total population were youths aged between 15 and 24, a population highly considered  to be sexually active.
Today, there are fears that youths have not been adequately reached with messages on a national scale or they have little or no access to contraceptives.  Reproductive health commentators in the local media have described the fast growing population in Malawi as a time bomb, which when it explodes will cast catastrophic effects. Population growth has been attributed to early pregnancies among the adolescents and currently it is estimated that 152 children are born per every 1000 live births.
Emily Kamwendo, a Reproductive Health Expert was quoted in the media as saying that Malawi has one of the highest early marriage or child marriages prevalence rates in the world. On average, one out of two girls will be married by their 18th birthday. In 2010, half of the women aged between 20 and 24 years were married before age 18.  If this trend is anything to go by, it means that 631 000 of the young girls born between 2005 -2010 will be married before age 18 by 2030.
Youths pose for photograph after family planning meeting.

Poverty and lack of education among the adolescents are among the leading causes of early pregnancies and early marriages. According to the Malawi Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) of 2010, young women with no education were eleven times more likely to have started child bearing by the age of 19 than those with secondary school or higher education.
The population boom in Malawi is creating a huge strain on natural resources and the national budget is overstretched to provide and sustain social services. There is now increasing pressure on the government to act on the issue immediately.
Recently, the Malawi government unveiled the four National Population Policy priority areas such as; advocacy, information, education and communication and behavior change; coordination of population programs and capacity building; research, data   collection , analysis and dissemination  and mainstreaming of population and related issues in development planning.
ADRA Malawi through the Family Planning Community Advocacy project is complementing government’s efforts by raising awareness on family planning methods and is linking communities to service providers in Mulanje, Machinga, Lilongwe and Mzuzu.
ADRA Malawi is currently mobilizing and is supporting over 280 community family planning volunteers targeting over 240 village communities to increase accessibility and usage of modern family planning methods. The project is also engaging family planning service providers at district and community level to advocate for youth friendly services in health centers.



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