Dear Esteemed Readers,

I welcome you to February 2024 with full knowledge that it is a month the world celebrates Valentine’s Day and I would like to ask all young people to understand what the day is all about. This falls on 14th February every year. While Valentine’s Day has lots of good memories for some young people, others have bad memories. For others, it is the day they find new love and are quite excited and emotionally happy. There are some young people, Valentine’s Day means something very different because of previous bad experiences. It is the day they got Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI), unwanted pregnancies or they were gang raped. Therefore, as we approach Valentine’s Day, we need to approach it with care. Let Valentine’s Day be the source of happiness for all of us and ensure that we are safe and healthy.

A growing cancer has emerged among young people at various levels in our society and continues to be a menace for the youth. This is the abuse of alcohol and other hard drugs. What is sickening is the future of such young people, who could have been productive but are being wasted and we need to do something about it. The Minister of Home Affairs is the custodian of the issues of drugs and hosts the Dangerous Drugs unit. However, we have not seen much progress on the Dangerous Drugs Act and it is not clear in terms of how we are managing the component of underage drinking. We have so many alcohol outlets and this has become big business. Malawi has an alcohol policy that provides for access to and age limits for the same. But these guidelines are not being adhered to. More challenging is the unlicensed alcohol that is being brewed and distilled in our communities. These need to be regulated. As a country, we need to be proactive.

The biggest challenge is that parents are not prepared to manage children who are on drugs and those with alcohol use disorder. They have no skills to cope with this and require some effective management. The sad aspect is that this costs parents huge sums of resources including time to care for children who have become addicted to alcohol. On a different note, the systems and structures that were available to support people recovering from drug and alcohol abuse have almost collapsed leaving hospitals overwhelmed with cases. We need to rethink the strategies for dealing with the problem of drug and substance abuse which is in our midst.

Let me finish this note by saying that we have less than 24 months before Malawi goes to the polls in September 2025. We have observed that silent and unofficial campaigns are being done. We are also seeing several challenges in the processes and political intolerance within the parties. We, therefore, urge the citizenry to realize that voting is a right and that every eligible person should plan to vote in the forthcoming elections.

I wish you a wonderful month of February


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