Malawi has recorded a drop in population growth rate in the past four years from 2.9 percent in 2018 to an annual average rate of 2.7 percent today.
But the Ministry of Health and analysts have described the drop as insignificant, warning that it would still put the country’s economy under stress.
United Nations Population Fund (UNPFA) website dashboard shows that the country’s population has jumped from 18.14 million in 2018 to 20.2 million today.
“The drop is not impressive considering that our country does not have resources to sustain the provision of social services,” said the ministry’s family planning coordinator, Mary Mulombe-Phiri.
A 2018 National Statistical Office census showed that the country had 18.14 million people, meaning about two million Malawians have been added to the communities.
Mulombe-Phiri attributed the drop to increased use of contraceptives and intensified awareness on the importance of having small families.
She, however, said the country faces challenges to slow down its population growth because it has a youthful population.
“This group will want to have their own children. The other challenge is that fertility rate among women is still high at over four percent. If it was reduced to slightly above two we could have managed to significantly slow the population growth,” Mulombe-Phiri said.
Meanwhile, Social and Community Affairs Committee of Parliament chairperson Savel Kafwafwa warned that the economy will suffer as government will have to stretch itself to meet the demand for key social services, most of which are free.
He said: “From the social perspective, Malawi has great challenges when it comes to provision of social services. Most of our health services are free, primary education is free and most schools up to secondary and tertiary level are kind of subsidised. Our agriculture is subsidised.”
According to the UNFPA, the adolescent birth rate per 1 000 girls aged 15-19 between 2004 and 2020 was 138.
Meanwhile, the Dedza North parliamentarian said population growth is worsened by underage pregnancies. He, therefore, said much effort should be put in keeping the girls in school.
“The women are the ones at a disadvantage. Most women that end up having eight children are the ones who dropped out of school. That is where as a nation we need to tread carefully. We must ask, how do we keep the girl child in school and make sure that she doesn’t start to bear children at a young age?
Kafwafwa also urged government to draft a policy to limit families from having more than four children if population growth is to be tamed.
He said: “The countries that are suffering much are in sub-Saharan Africa because no one cares about how many children we are bearing. For me, I would support a policy that controls the number of children one can have; say four children for a family until the economy improves, that would be fine.”
Family Planning Association of Malawi (Fpam) executive director Donald Makwakwa blamed early pregnancies on low uptake of contraceptives among girls due to inaccessibility or societal hindrances.
He warned that the situation could worsen due to decreasing support towards contraception services especially among the rural youths.
Said Makwakwa: “In Malawi, the adolescent birth rate is high, meaning that some young girls between 15 and 19, at that age, have already started giving birth.
“We really need to focus on that age group because in terms of women that are using modern contraceptives, the majority are those who are married.”
On call to introduce a policy to cap the number of children each family can have, Makwakwa said that would not work due to human rights issues.
The UNFPA statistics show that the current population from 2021 to 2022 the population increased by 2.71 percent.
In 2021 it was around 19.7 million, a 2.71 percent increase from 2020.
In 2020 it was 19.1 million a 2.69 percent increase from 2019.
The population of Malawi in 2019 was 18.63 million, a 2.68 percent increase from 2018.