Vice-President Saulos Chilima has said population growth and early teen marriages must be given more attention to avert a looming national crisis.
Chilima, who is also Minister of Economic Planning and Development and Public Sector Reforms, was speaking Tuesday at his offices at Capital Hill in Lilongwe when UUNFPA regional director for east and southern Africa Dr Julita Onabanjo paid him a courtesy call.
The vice president said the meeting was important because they discussed issues bordering on youth empowerment, the twin crisis of adolescent fertility and early marriages; as well as gender based violence which need more attention now.
“The youth are the country and no longer future leaders. We must pay more attention to them now. We must also pay more attention to population growth and early marriages because they are leading to early marriages and teen pregnancies. This could be a disaster in the making. We must act on these threats to avoid creating dependent families and a dependent nation and a subsequent social welfare state,” Chilima said.
According to the Ministry of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare, the country registered 20 000 teenage pregnancies during the emergency school break between March and August. Dowa alone registered 95 pregnancies and 385 marriages involving girls aged below 18.
In thanking UNFPA and the entire UN family, Chilima said the government appreciates the support and collaboration from the UN on a number programs and initiatives that continue to assist the people of Malawi.
On her part, Onabanjo hailed the Malawi government for what she called putting young people at the centre of development.
“We thank your government for working towards lifting and protecting young people. As UNFPA and UN we remain your cooperating partner. We will continue working together on a number of programs especially eliminating violence against girls and women,” she said.
Onabanjo arrived in Malawi on Sunday and she will be criss-crossing the country visiting initiatives aimed at eliminating violence against girls and women.
In 2019 during the International Conference on Population and Development ICPD in Kenya, Malawi announced ambitious commitments to make sexual and reproductive health services youth friendly and a part of essential supplies during emergencies.