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«NATIONAL POPULATION POLICY December, 2012 NATIONAL POPULATION POLICY Ministry of Economic Planning and Development P.O. Box 30136 LILONGWE 3 Tel: 01 ...»

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Government of Malawi


December, 2012


Ministry of Economic Planning and Development

P.O. Box 30136


Tel: 01 788 888

Fax: 01 788 247


Malawi has made remarkable progress in improving the socio-economic

welfare of its people in the past years. However, the country continues to

face challenges posed by population dynamics such as high fertility and mortality rates, high child dependency burden, unemployment, and environmental degradation.

To mitigate the impact of such challenges on the welfare of Malawians, Government has updated the country’s 1994 National Population Policy to ensure that it is kept abreast with the current population and development issues. The overall goal of the policy is to contribute to the improvement of the standard of living and the quality of life of the people of Malawi. The previous policy focused on reducing the growth rate of the population, while the current one is aimed at supporting the achievement of sustainable socioeconomic development as envisaged in the national development agenda and international development framework.

In this vein, Government is committed to provide the necessary support and enabling policy and programme environment for the implementation of the policy. Since population issues are crosscutting in nature, the implementation of the policy calls for concerted efforts by all. In this regard, Government will also ensure effective coordination of the policy implementation process among various stakeholders in population and development, by providing adequate institutional and technical capacity to implementing partners.

I wish to thank all those who have given their time, ideas and expertise during the policy revision process. I wish to appeal to all stakeholders to support Government in implementing the policy.

Finally, I would like to thank Her Excellency the President, Mrs Joyce Banda for providing the economic development framework in which this population policy has been formulated.

Goodall Gondwe, MP



Malawi’s population has grown from 4 million in 1966 to 13.1 million in 2008.

Currently, in 2012, it is projected to be at 14.8 million. At the current rate of growth, it is estimated that the population will at least triple by 2050. Such a rapidly increasing population will undermine the Government’s ability to provide quality social services in various sectors, including health, education, and housing, and it will accelerate depletion of natural resources such as forests and degradation of land and the environment.

This scenario threatens the sustainability of the momentum Malawi has gained to date in improving its socio-economic indicators such as enrolment rate in schools, reduction in poverty levels and improved food and nutrition security. In this regard, the revised National Population Policy seeks to enhance prioritization, coordination, and implementation of the country’s population challenges. The policy’s goals and objectives are consistent with the government’s broader goal of achieving sustainable human development.

The policy is also in line with the recommendations of the Programme of Action of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development and the Millennium Development Goals framework, which call for integrated and rights based approaches to addressing population issues.

A wide range of stakeholders, including District Executive Committees (DECs), Religious and Traditional Leaders, Parliamentarians, Youth Groups and government departments have been consulted in the development of this policy. The strategies and interventions for the implementation of the policy will be outlined in the National Population Policy Action Plan that will be formulated in due course. The interventions will be implemented through a multi-sectoral approach by various partners, at national and district levels.

–  –  –

AIDS Acquired Immuno-Deficiency Syndrome CMR Child Mortality Rate CPR Contraceptive Prevalence Rate FBOs Faith Based Organisations FPE Free Primary Education HIV Human Immunodeficiency Virus ICPD International Conference on Population and Development IEC Information, Education and Communication IHS Integrated Household Survey IMR Infant Mortality Rate IPDP Integration of Population Variable in Development Planning MDGs Millennium Development Goals MDHS Malawi Demographic and Health Survey MGDS Malawi Growth and Development Strategy MMR Maternal Mortality Rate NGOs Non-Governmental Organizations NPP National Population Policy NPP PoA National Population Policy Plan of Action NSO National Statistics Office PHC Population and Housing Census STI Sexually Transmitted Infections SRH Sexual and Reproductive Health TFR Total Fertility Rate WMS Welfare Monitoring Survey UNFPA United Nations Population Fund








1.0 Background

1.1 Population and Socio-economic Situation

1.2 Rationale

1.3 Linkages with Relevant Conventions, Policies and Strategies.............. 10

1.4 Guiding Principles

1.5 Key Challenges and Barriers



2.0 Vision

2.1 Mission

2.2 Policy Goal

2.3 Policy Outcomes

2.4 Objectives






4.1 Institutional Arrangements

4.2 Implementation

4.3 Monitoring and Evaluation

–  –  –

1.0 Background This policy is an update of the first National Population Policy, which Malawi adopted in 1994. Although the first policy was developed prior to the Cairo International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), it was implemented in full recognizance of the recommendations of the ICPD Programme of Action, to which Malawi is a signatory. The 1994 policy recognized the strong interrelationship between population dynamics and socio-economic development, and provided a framework for addressing the country’s developmental challenges through structured management of its population dynamics including rapid population growth, high levels of fertility and mortality. The policy was aimed at addressing developmental challenges that emanate from unmanaged population growth, high levels of fertility and mortality. The implementation of the policy contributed to several achievements such as reduction in mortality rates, increase in use of contraception, improvements in primary school enrolment rates, and increased awareness on the link between population and development.

However, key challenges remain in efforts to improve management of population issues and optimize the role of population dynamics in sustainable socioeconomic development. Maternal mortality rates remain exceptionally high. Malnutrition, Malaria and Tuberculosis continue to be major causes of poor health and mortality, and many children are orphaned due to HIV/AIDS related deaths. Despite the good progress made in enabling women access and use contraception, there are marked inequalities in contraceptive use across regions and socioeconomic groups, and fertility rates have remained stubbornly high. Contraceptive discontinuation rates are relatively high and about a quarter of women who need to use family planning are not doing so.

The average age at marriage remains low and the country has relatively high teenage pregnancy rates, which contribute to high fertility and maternal deaths. The high child dependency ratio makes it difficult to improve quality of education, health care, and accumulate savings for future investments.

The combined effects of population growth and climate change are increasing food insecurity, environmental degradation, and poverty levels in the country.

Malawi is also experiencing rapid urbanization, which is exerting pressure on the capacity of the government and the private sector to provide adequate and quality social services and create jobs for urban residents. Malawi continues to have both financial and technical resource constraints in health and other social sectors. Funding for population programmes is limited and the shortage of health workers adversely affects delivery of key population interventions like family planning.

This policy has been developed to revitalize the country’s population and development programme in the light of the persisting and emerging challenges. The policy also seeks to align Malawi’s programme firmly with key national and international development frameworks including the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS II), the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and the ICPD Programme of Action. The implementation strategies of the policy will be reviewed accordingly following relevant modifications that may come up when these frameworks are revised. The policy also supports the implementation of various sectoral national policies addressing issues related to population dynamics.

The overall goal of this National Population Policy is to contribute to the improvement of the standards of living and quality of life of the people of Malawi. The policy will provide a framework for enhancing prioritization, coordination, and implementation of programmes for addressing population and development challenges at national and district levels.

The Government of Malawi recognizes the strong interrelationship between population dynamics and socio-economic development. Therefore, in order for the country to attain sustainable development, the management of its population challenges should be through an all inclusive and multi-sectoral approach.

1.1 Population and Socio-economic Situation Population and Housing Census (PHC) data show that the Population of Malawi has grown from 8.0 million in 1987 to 9.9 million in 1998, and to 13.1 in 2008. The annual growth rate between 1998 and 2008 was 2.8 percent.

Projections by the National Statistical office indicate that the current population of about 15 million people is likely to reach 45 million by 2050.

The population density in 2008 was 139 persons per square kilometre. The population is youthful with 54 percent of the population aged 18 years and below.

The Total Fertility Rate (TFR) is currently estimated at an average of 5.7 births per woman. The fertility rate has declined slowly from 7.6 in 1984 to

6.7 in 1992 and 5.7 in 2010 as indicated in the 2010 Malawi Demographic and Health Survey (MDHS). The slow decline in fertility is not in line with the notable improvement in the contraceptive prevalence rate for modern methods of contraception among married women, which increased from 7.4 percent in 1992 to 42.2 percent in 2010. This anomaly needs to be investigated and its root causes addressed. The impact of high fertility on future population growth is such that population continues to grow for another five to eight decades after attaining replacement level fertility of 2.1 children per woman due to the effect of Population Momentum. This results from the high concentration of young people who are yet to go through their reproduction.

Among the main features of Malawi’s fertility is the high adolescent fertility rate that result from low levels of educational attainment and early marriage among women. There are also marked differentials in levels of fertility across the country’s socioeconomic groups. For instance, the 2010 DHS data show that the fertility rate for women in the poorest 40 percent of households is 6.8 children, while the rate for the richest quintile is 3.7. The fertility rates for rural and urban residents are 6.1 and 4.0, respectively. Similar differentials are observed across education categories; women with no education have 6.9 children while whose with secondary education have 3.8 children.

Malawian women and men would like to have fewer children than previous generations, and they would like to have fewer children than the current fertility rate. The desired family size in 1992 was 5.0 for women and 5.2 for men. According to the 2010 DHS data, the desired family sizes are 3.9 for women and 4.0 for men. About 26 percent of married women have an unmet need for family planning, meaning that they want to delay the next pregnancy or stop childbearing, but they are not using any method of family planning.

These figures show that there is potential to increase contraceptive use and reduce fertility levels if barriers of access to and use of family planning can be addressed.

According to the 2008 census, life expectancy at birth is at 51.4 years for females and 48.3 years for males. Malawi has made outstanding progress in reducing childhood mortality, and it is one of the few African countries on course to achieve the MDG 4 target by 2015. DHS data show that the Infant Mortality Rate (IMR), declined from 134 to 66 deaths among children aged less than one year per 1000 births between 1992 and 2010. The Under-Five Mortality Rate declined from 243 to 112 deaths among children aged less than 5 years out of 1000 births over the same period. However, little progress was made in reducing the Neonatal Mortality Rate, which declined from 41 to 31 deaths among children aged less than 28 days out of 1000 live births over this period.

According to DHS data, the HIV prevalence rate among adults aged 15-49 has declined from 11.8 percent in 2004 to 10.6 percent in 2010 percent. However, marked gender differentials in HIV prevalence persist, especially among the young people aged 15-24. In 2010 the HIV prevalence whereby the 2010 rate for young females is 5.2 percent while for males it is 1.9 percent. The Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) remains worryingly high, although it has declined from 984 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 2004 to 675 in

2010. The country has registered marked improvement in the proportion of women who deliver babies with assistance of skilled health attendants from

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