/ 1 October 2007

Malawi struggles to reduce poverty

Malawi, one of Africa’s poorest nations, said on Monday that despite recent efforts to grow the economy, it would be unable to meet the United Nations target date of halving poverty by 2015.

A welfare-monitoring survey conducted by the Ministry of Economic Planning and Development indicated that poverty dropped to 45% in Malawi in 2006, from 53,9% in 1998, Ben Botolo, a director in the ministry, said.

But despite this drop, ”poverty levels still remain very high”.

Malawi will not meet the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG) target of ”halving the proportion of people living below the poverty line by 2015”, he said in an interview.

”There has not been a significant economic growth over the years to help eradicate extreme poverty and hunger,” Botolo said.

He said economic growth has stagnated at 2% per annum over the past decade.

The World Bank, one of the major sponsors of Malawi’s economic reforms, wants the agriculture-powered economy to grow by 6% annually to create wealth and jobs.

The common feature of the Malawi poor is their inability to meet their minimum nutritional requirements and essential non-food needs, equivalent to $40 per capita per annum, an official report says.

Botolo said Malawi had also made ”little progress” in slashing the mortality rate, currently at 984 per 100 000 live births. It was 1 120 deaths per 100 000 seven years ago.

In July, Malawi launched its economic blueprint aimed at accelerating economic growth and reducing poverty with a focus on improving agriculture. — Sapa-AFP