Malawi media body to advocate PHE, climate change issues

Populations of vulnerable women in Malawi and the Lower Shire belt in the southern region stand to benefit from efforts of a media organisation through advocacy and documentation activities it is carrying out on effects of population, health and the environment (PHE) as they relate to climate change issues.

The Journalists Association against AIDS (JournAIDS) activities, under its integrated population and health environment advocacy programme, have already reached out to Isu village in Chikwawa district.

The village  under Chief Mlolo and with an estimated population of 6,000 people, experienced floods, leaving many homeless. Livestock and food and cash crops were also affected.

JournAIDS’ program officer Dingaan Mithi, says the project is built towards completing climate change policy frameworks attracted the institution to visit the place and carry out an impact assessment.

Bauti: JournAids director

“We documented these effects and have already started sharing information so that mitigation activities by other implementing stakeholders can be more informed and directed,” he said.

Executive Director, Christopher Bauti, added that the key findings gave witness to the fact that women and children are the most vulnerable in the face of climate change issues.

“They need firewood and are the most dependent upon when it comes to agricultural activity. They suffer the blunt of climate degradation as they struggle to attain food security for their families. Considering that Malawi as a country least contributes to growing emissions but is likely to suffer the most severely, we feel our involvement shall lead to positive and informed decisions,” he elaborated.

In Chikwawa alone, extreme weather events and climate adaptation has affected well over 439,000 people which is the district’s population. Its flatness and the presence of the Shire River all add to annual flooding causes, apart from growing populations clearing land for human settlements.

“The district is facing climate change hazards and more land is being cleared to facilitate human settlements,” assistant district disaster risk management officer, Francis Kadzoya said.

There are a number of issues that point to the crucial role of gender relative to causes of climate change. For starters, women and men in their respective social roles react differently to effects of climate change. Their care work and income generating work roles, dependency on natural resources and differences in access to education and information systems lead to more women being over affected.

Varying perceptions of issues and reactions to climate matters also pit women to higher risk than men despite that women recognise climate change as a serious matter than men do – their strong relationship to lifestyle changes and reduction of energy consumption also play a part.

JournAIDS, mainly working in the area of HIV and AIDS, is also looking at the role government and civil society play in addressing climate change challenges. One of the documented adaptive initiatives has been the construction of a dyke in T/A Chapananga’s area to avert and stop flooding. This is coupled by a Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) policy implementation, enabling communities to be resilient to climate change.

The organisation which took journalists from various media houses to access and assess the situation believes that it is important to involve a larger number of stakeholders when addressing population, health and environment.

“We were in a position to talk to women, men, children, traditional leaders and government officials on how the district is being affected by population dynamics and climate change,” added Bauti.

Although the presence of negative cultural beliefs has an impact on women’s health and also on climate change adaptation, added Bauti, JournAIDS singled out the need to think about developing a special project in the future to advocate for reproductive health in the context of climate change to specially target women populations in the district.

The annual population growth in Malawi stands at 2.8%, while on average women have six children each. The 2008 national population census indicates Malawi has 13 million people and the Population Action International (PAI), which supports the programme, estimates the country’s population may jump to 130 million by 2100 if women continue to lack access to family planning which is vital in environmental conservation.

The Lower Shire is a typical example of how population, health and the environment relates.

JournAIDS has since produced a fifteen minutes television documentary which is being circulated and used as an advocacy resource on population, health and the environment.

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