Honourable Atupele Muluzi, Minister of Health and Population
Honourable Clement T. Chiwaya, MP, Mangochi Central
Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Health and Population
Reverend Moses Chimpendo, District Commissioner of Mangochi
Traditional Chiefs present
All senior government officials present
Distinguished guests, Ladies and gentlemen
Today we celebrate the opening of the Maternity Wing and the Maternal and Child Health Centre of the Mangochi District Hospital. The construction of these facilities was funded by the Icelandic government, and therefore it gives me great pleasure to visit Malawi on this occasion. This is my first time in Malawi.
The welcoming attitude of the people is heart-warming, and the beauty of the country is striking. I must confess that the weather here is much better than in my country, where recently we have had temperatures below freezing point, which makes Iceland a fitting name.
Yesterday we travelled around various parts of your beautiful district, learning about some of the results of our joint development programme. I was very impressed with what we saw and clearly, we are making good progress.
I also took the opportunity to plant trees at the sites we visited. Iceland is very committed to the Paris Declaration on Climate change and can hopefully make some contribution to Mangochi District efforts in reforestation and combatting climate change in the future.
This visit has also made me think about the past and the many Icelandic people who have lived here, many of whom have very fond memories of your country and never tire of telling stories about how wonderful Malawi is. After all, Iceland has been collaborating with Malawi and Mangochi for 30 years.
For almost ten years of these 30, our cooperation has been led and implemented by the Mangochi District Council. The main reason for this arrangement is to ensure local ownership of our cooperation programme.
This new Maternity Wing and Maternal and Child Health Centre is yours – its construction was requested by you, it was led by you – and now you must take the responsibility of using it to the benefit of the women and children in the district. Lastly, you must maintain it well.
Nevertheless, even if we want the District Council to be in charge, Iceland as a development partner has not hesitated to make it known that we need to monitor closely how funds are used and activities implemented. We have accountability obligations to our tax payers and citizens in Iceland, just as you have in Malawi.
We take seriously our obligations to fight corruption. This our partners know, as Iceland has always taken action whenever suspicions of such behaviour have arisen in the past. I hereby ask that we keep on our fruitful collaboration to fight corruption.
Through our long-standing cooperation, Iceland has supported many major investments in the Mangochi District, not only this Maternity Wing and Maternal and Child Health Centre. In fact, we have for an extended time been the largest funder of the investment budget of the Mangochi District Council. This is a fact that I am happy to note.
Within the health sector, we have supported investments in health clinics, health posts, maternity wards, staff houses, ambulances and supported the Health Surveillance Assistants system in various ways. The biggest single investment so far, has been the Community Hospital in Monkey Bay which was inaugurated back in 2012.
This formal inauguration of the Maternity Wing and the Maternal and Child Health Centre is not only a milestone for this district, but also for Iceland as a committed donor. It is expected that up to 30 thousand children will be born in facilities we have supported here in the Mangochi District this year. This is in fact about eight times more deliveries than in the entire health care system per year back home in Iceland.
Iceland has also funded investments in clean water and sanitation for well over 300 thousand people, in various Traditional Authorities, and thereby contributed to the fact that Mangochi has been cholera free for the last two years.
We have also made major investments in 12 target schools, building school blocks, administration facilities, teacher’s houses, trained teachers and procured teaching materials. The major emphasis is placed on reducing the dropout of pupils after standard four and to improve the basic reading proficiency for children in standards one to three.
When visiting schools in Mangochi we are made acutely aware of the challenges associated with the rapidly growing population in Malawi. Preliminary results of the 2018 census indicate that the population has grown by 35% since the last census in 2008.
Mangochi has now an estimated population of 1.2 million, which is about 400 thousand more than in 2010 when preparations for the Mangochi Basic Services programme started. The strain caused by this high growth is strongly felt in the health and education sectors and challenges the sustainability of results achieved.
One of the most effective ways to tackle this situation is the adoption of family planning programmes that address some of the underlying factors for population growth, as well as some fundamental human rights.
A straight forward action would be to prevent teen pregnancies. In that respect we would like to applaud the efforts of the Malawian government, and in particular His Excellency the President of the Republic, in ending child marriages. Teen pregnancies contribute negatively to the health of mothers and their children, and restrain their future possibilities in life.
Furthermore, early child bearing places an extra burden on the health services. Investing in efforts to end child marriages and early child bearing is not only morally right but also makes a very good economic sense.
I would like to emphasise that human rights and gender equality are placed high on the Icelandic development agenda and we hope to be a reliable development partner for Malawi to support such issues.
As I said earlier, this year marks 30 years of cooperation between Iceland and Malawi. This is a long timespan. I would like to use this opportunity to thank the Malawian government and, in particular, the staff of the Mangochi District Council for its commitment and dedication to our cooperation.
Iceland will continue to support the Mangochi District. Currently, we are working on the second phase of the Mangochi Basic Services Programme that will run until 2021. This phase includes upgrading of the Makanjira Health Centre, continued support to the 12 primary schools, as well as many new and rehabilitated boreholes.
Furthermore, the programme includes economic empowerment component, both for women and youth, and support to the Mangochi Council Secretariat. We firmly believe that this support will benefit many people in this district.
As I look at these buildings, I feel confident that it will be of great support to mothers-to-be in the Mangochi District and their unborn children. In recent years, Malawi has done well in lowering maternal and child mortality rates, and this facility will offer opportunities for even further improvements.
However, having good facilities is only one part of what is required. This maternity wing needs to have first rate doctors and midwifes, and other qualified personnel. That responsibility lies with the Malawi government and I have full faith that that firm actions have be taken to ensure that this investment brings welfare to the communities.
Finally, I want to congratulate you all on this new Maternity Wing and the Maternal and Child Health Centre and I wish the people of Malawi and of the Mangochi District prosperity in the future.