“There is need to harness the demographic dividend to ensure that the present and the future population are catered for,” Munthali made the remarks in Lilongwe when the country joined the rest of the world in commemorating world population day, which falls on July 11.
He said population issues were “central to the development of Malawi and the country needs a quality population to harness development dividends.”
The country’s population is currently at 17.6 million, four times the population of 1966.
The National Statistical Office (NSO), in its 2018 population and housing census, said the total population increased by 35 percent between 2008 and 2018, representing an average growth rate of 2.9 percent per year.
Munthali said for Malawi to meet sustainable development goals (SDGs) with only 11 years left and the Malawi development strategy goals (MDSGs), the country “needs to think very long and hard in terms of what type of population quality and levels Malawi is looking forward to the years to come.”
“Our population has been growing so fast and yet the services are not matching with the levels of population. So I think when we are reflecting on the world population day as a country we really need to rethink of how we can harness the population potentials that we have in the country because a lot of unfinished business has happened in this sector,’ he said.
Kennedy Machila, a research expert at the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar) , Kennedy Machila warns that if the trend continues, Malawi will not be able to contain and care for the booming population.
He recommends extensive research on contraceptive uptake among women.
"Having a huge population means that we shall be able to have increased challenges, for example the number of schools that we have could not be adequate and at the same time jobs, food will be very difficult to find.
“The quality of life of the people is going to be affected, people will be densely populated which means many diseases, so many struggles for resources,’ said Machila.
He said if current trends continued, Malawi's population could peak to 63 million in 2063.
On her part, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Country Representative Won Young Hong said Malawi must invest in human capital and sexual reproduction health, saying this was key to development.
Hong advised on the need for a girl child to remain in school in order to be matured and make informed decisions and not out of peer influence.
‘When girls are left in school they delay on time to start bearing children which can check population growth. So my advice to parents and the community at large is to allow girls finish education as they may be able to make informed choices about having children and achieve the best’, said Hong.
The year 2019 Marks 50 years since UNFPA began its operations and 25 years since the landmark international conference on population and development which set aside the world population day.