Posted on: January 24, 2014 4:00 PM
By Bellah Zulu, ACNS
The Anglican Church in Malawi has joined other faith groups in the country to educate people on the importance of family planning considering Malawi’s rapid population growth rate.
Malawi’s current population of 15 million is expected to grow to about 40 million in the next 20 years “if strong measures for controlling the birth rate per year are not put in place.”
In an interview with ACNS, Bishop of Upper Shire, the Rt Revd Brighton Malasa said that his Diocese would participate in addressing the effects of rapid population growth through “preaching in their churches as well as ensuring that the two hospitals and many other health centres owned by the church teach people the importance of family planning.
“Last year, we marked August 25 as a special day for teaching people on the effects of overpopulation,” he said. “One of the sermons emphasised that overpopulation would lead to the shortage of learning materials in schools and would put more stress on parents. Health facilities would also be under a lot of pressure.”
Many church organisations including the Malawi Council of Churches (MCC) –of which the Anglican Church is a part— and the Quadria Muslim Association of Malawi (QMAM), partnered with the government of Malawi through the sanctioned Health Population Project (HPP) to tackle population growth in the country.
The government there considers the inclusion of faith-based organisations an important step in purveying development and population related information to the masses since about 97 percent of the population are religious followers.
“The Anglican Diocese of Upper Shire believes that overpopulation can lead to unhappy families, miserable villages, gloomy districts and a lifeless country,” said the Bishop. “All the people of God in Malawi are called to fight against overpopulation which might lead to too much pressure on the available resources.”
The USAID-funded HPP in collaboration with the University of North Carolina supports the initiative through the support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Bishop Malasa concluded: “All Malawians should remember that the square kilometres of the earth shall remain the same though the population is growing. Strong measures should be followed in order to curb the negative effects of overpopulation.”
In times of anxiety across the world about the increasing threat to the world’s natural environment and resources, the issue of population explosions needs to be addressed. In Malawi, this is being considered, not only by Anglicans and other Christians but also by the Muslims – in a country where it is estimated that the population is 97% people of religious faith. It is good that the Anglican leadership in Malawi is intent on addressing the issue amongst their own people by providing education in family planning.
This is a matter in which all faith communities seem to be cooperating in looking for means to avert a disastrous situation of gross over-population, where the national figure is set to increase from 15 to 40 million people within the next 20 years. Perhaps the Malawian experience will help other African and Third World countries to seriously address the problem of over-population, in places where poverty and a shortage of medical and health facilities are already threatening the existing human environment.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand