UNITED NATIONS POPULATION INFORMATION NETWORK (POPIN)
UN Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs,
with support from the UN Population Fund (UNFPA)

94-09-09: Statement of Malawi, H.E. Mr. Justin C. Malewezi

ISO: MWI

 

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 AS WRITTEN





                                MALAWI



                    STATEMENT BY THE RIGHT HONOURABLE

                 JUSTIN C. MALEWEZI, VICE STATE PRESIDENT

                        OF THE REPUBLIC OF MALAWI



DELIVERED AT THE INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON POPULATION AND DEVELOPMENT,

CAIRO INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE CENTER, CAIRO, EGYPT, 09, SEPTEMBER, 1994



PLEASE CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY



 Mr. President, Your Excellencies, Distinguished Leaders of Delegations,

Ladies and Gentlemen.



 I feel greatly privileged to be among this distinguished gathering of

the International Conference on Population and Development being held

here in this magnificent, historic and beautiful city of Cairo. Allow

me, Mr. President, to extend Malawi's congratulations to you, Your

Excellency, on your being elected to the high office of Conference

President.



 My delegation would also like to thank, through you Mr. President, DR

Nafis Sadik, the Conference Secretary General, and the whole Secretariat

for the timely finalisation of the Conference's Draft Programme of

Action as app !approved by the Preparatory Committee for the ICPD at its

Third Session held in New York in April, this year. Mr. P resident,

Malawi's experiences in population and development were ably tabled

during negotiations of PrepCom III.



 Malawi's social indicators are among the worst in the world. For

example, the infant mortality rate stands at 135 per 1000 live births,

while the child mortality rate is 240 per 1000 live births. The risk of

Malawian women dying due to pregnancy and related factors i9 1 in 29

followed by a very high maternal mortality ratio of 620 per 100,000 live

births. Similarly, Mr. President, Malawi's life expectancy at birth of

48 years, is among the lowest in the world.



 Mr. President, among the major factors contributing to the poor health

status are: poverty, high illiteracy rates, especially among women, too

early, too many, too frequent and too late pregnancies. Additional

reasons include a high annual population growth rate of 3.2 per cent, a

high total fertility rate of 6.7 and a low contraceptive prevalence rate

of 7 per cent.



 Aware of these critical issues the new Government has placed poverty

alleviation as its top developmental objective. Within this objective,

population and development issues, the implementation of a comprehensive

reproductive health care programme including family planning and primary

health care are a top priority for my Government. Our aim is to achieve

sustainable population growth rates which are compatible with the

attainment of the country's social and economic development objectives.



 Mr. President, strategies for realizing these objectives are well

articulated in several key policy documents. These are mainly in areas

of population, nutrition, gender and development, child survival, family

planning, the environment and poverty.



 These policy documents, Mr. President, provide a solid framework within

which to address Malawi's population and development issues

holistically. Their principal aim, within Malawi's social, economic and

cultural development, of which population goals and policies are

integral parts, is to improve levels of living and the quality of life

of Malawian's, especially those in rural and peri-urban areas.



 My delegation therefore notes with satisfaction that the ICPD is taking

place at a time when the need for international cooperation for global

problem-solving has never been greater. Such cooperation for development

should be based on the spirit of partnership, mutual trust, interest and

benefits, and genuine interdependence.



 Mr. president, Malawi believes that international cooperation cannot

take place in the absence of national independence, sovereignty, and

liberation. Therefore, the first multiparty Government in the history of

Malawi, to which I am privileged to belong, recognizes the dignity of

the individual, his/her self-determination as well as the elimination of

all forms of discrimination in accordance with the Universal Declaration

on Human Rights and the United Nations Charter.



 In looking towards the future, Mr. President, the Government of Malawi

realizes that the challenges of today are to ensure that the majority of

Malawians have access to efficient and effective reproductive health

services that take account of the interactions of population, the

environment, resources and development.



 Priority will therefore be given to the implementation of the National

Population Policy focusing on  improving the poor social indicators

through, among other actions, the implementation of  comprehensive

reproductive and sexual health programmes including family planning,

strengthening programme management and integrating gender and

development issues in all  population and development programmes.



  Mr. President, these efforts will have little impact unless the

underlying factors such as poverty, food  insecurity and high

illiteracy, especially among women/girls, are addressed concurrently.

Malawi is  therefore full! committed to addressing these problems by

harnessing the efforts of all public,  parastatal, non-governmental,

private, inter-governmental and internal ional Organizations. Equally

important is the need to mobilize adequate financial, human and

material; resources at the local,  national and international levels

with which to implement our programs.



 Therefore, the Programme of Action's thrust in emphasizing efforts to

slow down population growth, to reduce poverty, to achieve economic

progress, to improve environmental protection, and to reduce

unsustainable consumption and production patterns are mutually

reinforcing and therefore deserve my delegation's full support.



 Mr. President and distinguished delegates, my delegation is more than

aware that during negotiations at PrepCom III, there was no consensus on

a number of critical issues. These include safe motherhood, sexual and

reproductive health, sexual and reproductive rights, family planning,

unsafe abortion and fertility regulation. It is my delegation's

considered opinion that these term; should not be compromised because

they are central to our population and development policies and

programes.



 Mr President, abortion in Malawi is still illegal, but it is carried

out if in the opinion of a medical doctor, the health of the mother is

endangered. Not withstanding this factor, available statistics in Malawi

show that nearly 35 per cent of all maternal deaths are due to induced

abortions. Thus, clandestine and back-door abortions are taking place at

an increasing rate, hence the need for addressing the health

consequences of abortion.



 Noting that a significant proportion of the abortions - carried out are

self-induced or otherwise unsafe, Malawi is one of the many countries in

the world where safe motherhood has been accepted as a strategy to a

reduce maternal morbidity and mortality. My delegation therefore

believes that the Draft Programme of Action - does not in any way

promote or attempt to legalize abortion. Such an interpretation, Mr.

President, is not only incorrect, but also dangerous because we are

talking about the lives of our women who, together with our children,

are the core and fabric of our society.



 Thus the provision of comprehensive reproductive health and family

planning information and services i8 unquestionably the most effective

means of preventing unsafe abortions. My delegation would like to urge,

in this context, that all Governments, inter-governmental and non-

governmental organizations should deal openly and forthrightly with

unsafe abortions as a major public concern. They should assess the

health and social impact of unsafe abortions and seek ways in which to

reduce the need for them.



 The prevention of unwanted pregnancies must always be given the highest

priority. It is my Government's resolve that all attempts should be made

to reduce the need for abortion, although abortion should not be

promoted as an alternative to contraception. In all cases, Mr.

President, women should have access to quality- services for the

management of complications arising from unsafe abortions, as well as to

postabortion counseling, education and 'familly planning services.



 Related to these issues Mr. President, is the subject of adolescent

sexual and reproductive health. Young people aged 10 - 24 years,

constitute one-third of Malawi's total population. They are faced with

diverse problems including changes in the traditional family structure

and early marriages (with 27.3 per cent of girls aged 15 - 19 already

being mothers of at least one child as of 1992).



 There is also a significant rise in the number of wanted and unwanted

pregnancies and the associated high risks of contracting and

transmitting sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS. These,

Mr. President, are realities of today and we must collectively and

affirmatively address the sexual and reproductive health needs of our

adolescents.



 In light of the spread of STDs and HIV/AIDS, Malawi recognizes the

right of every individual of childbearing age and couple to have healthy

and satisfactory relationships, free of any sexual abuse or harassment;

that such relationships should promote the right to freedom of choice

and responsible decision-making on the number and spacing of children;

and that by implication, sexual and reproductive health programmes

should neither be coercive nor discriminatory.



 Mr. President, Malawi believes that a clear understanding and a

recognition of the interrelationships between population, sustained

economic growth and sustainable development are of central importance to

the success of this Conference. This understanding will enable us to

take appropriate action in integrating population issues into economic

and development strategies at the rational and international levels. In

the context Malawi, a clear appreciation of these interrelationships

will enhance our ability to address the root causes of poverty and

create a firm basis for ensuring that our developmental initiatives and

actions are sustainable in the long-term.



 Mr. President, direct relationships between reducing population growth

rates and reducing poverty levels are well documented. I would, however,

like to add that since women are generally among the most neglected

sections of our society, often resulting from misconceptions of their

role in the family as well as from vestiges of past social and economic

patterns, existing gender inequalities and barriers to their economic

empowerment should be eliminated.



 Mr. President, my delegation notes with satisfaction the inclusion of

the goal of universal primary education in all countries before the year

2015, as well as increased access by girls and women to secondary and

higher levels of education. Malawi has just introduced free education at

the primary level. Our aim is to ensure u>~versal access to primary

school by both girls and boys as one of the ways of eradicating

illiteracy, as well as a basis for the permanent empowerment o. women,

beginning with the girl child.



 Finally, Mr. President, I wish to emphasize that action at the national

level is of paramount importance and should foster the active

involvement of people at the local and community levels, including their

elected representatives. An equally important area, Mr. President , is

resource mobilization and its judicious allocation and utilization,

without which the Programme of Action cannot be implemented.



 Mr. President, Excellencies, distinguished delegates,

 thank you; very much.


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