Family planning key to slowing Malawi’s population explosion

February 1, 2013 • Family Planning, Reproductive Health, Africa, News

Family planning key to slowing Malawi’s population explosion

BLANTYRE, 31 January 2013 (IRIN) – The waiting area of a clinic in northern Malawi’s Nkhata Bay resembles a kindergarten, with dozens of children running around or tugging on their mothers’ skirts. On average, each woman at the clinic has four small children with her.

Among them is Lillian Nasenda, who, at age 45, is pregnant with her eighth child. She dropped out of school when she was a teenager after becoming pregnant with her first.

“I cannot control what God created me to do. As a woman, I am supposed to have children. My husband will also not allow me at all to go for [family planning] methods,” she told IRIN.

Her views are common in a country where women have an average of 5.8 children. This is only a slight decline from 40 years ago, when the average was 7.2 children per woman, according to a study by the African Institute for Development Policy and Population Action International. The study notes that Malawi’s population grew from 3 million in 1950 to 15 million in 2010, and is projected to reach 50 million by 2050. The authors warn that rapid population growth is increasing food insecurity, environmental degradation and poverty levels.

The high fertility rate also puts women at significant risk; Malawi has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. On average, 800 Malawian women die every day from labour- or pregnancy-related problems, according to the Aspen Institute’s Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health (GLC), which recently sent a delegation to the country to draw attention to the declining global funding for maternal health and family planning services.

Funding to developing countries for family planning, as a proportion of all overseas health development assistance, fell from 8.2 percent in 2000 to just 2.6 percent in 2009, according to GLC.

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