Malawi President Joyce Banda said on Wednesday that although Malawi is registering success in maternal health and family planning, the increasing population and high fertility rate remain a challenge.
The President was speaking during a news conference in Lilongwe after meeting the visiting delegation of the Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health (GLC) which is being led by former president of Ireland Mary Robinson.
The country’s fertility rate at the moment stands at 5.7 children per woman.
Said the President: “Malawi needs to move maternal health and family planning successes to scale. The increasing population and the considerably high fertility rate remain a development challenge… We must do more to make family planning a critical pillar of our maternal health programmes.”
She said this effort must begin with a commitment to reaching out to women that would want to plan their families but do not have means to do so.
Banda also said through various interventions, the country has increased contraceptive prevalence to 42 percent.
According to Banda, the meeting also discussed the needs to increase work on changing cultural and traditional practices that hinder effective behaviour change in HIV and Aids prevention.
It also tackled the need to scale up provision of infrastructure in the health sector, the urgent need to address the capacity gaps in the health sector and the need to pay attention to girls secondary education as a strategy that can mitigate against early marriages and pregnancies.
Apart from Robinson, the delegation includes former Latvian president Vaira Vike-Freiberga and former South African deputy president Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, president and chief executive officer of the Global Fund for Women, Musimbi Kanyoro, former minister of Health in Botswana and vice-president of the Human Development Network of the World Bank Joy Phumaphi, and award winning Scottish singer Annie Lennox.
The six arrived in the country on Tuesday and during the meeting with Banda GLC, chaired by Robinson, they pledged their commitment to supporting the Malawi Government identify resources to support the maternal health sector.
Today (Thursday), the President and the visiting delegation will be on a learning visit to Traditional Authority Kwataine’s area in Ntcheu where, among several activities, they will interact with communities and appreciate the role communities are playing in advocating for safe motherhood.