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Malawi population explosion crippled development: Banda

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Children receive food at Mphandula Childcare Centre in Namitete on April 5, 2013. Malawi's runaway population growth has put pressure on scarce resources and so hampered development in the impoverished southern African nation, President Joyce Banda said Saturday. (AFP/File)

Malawi's runaway population growth has put pressure on scarce resources and so hampered development in the impoverished southern African nation, President Joyce Banda said Saturday.

"The population has grown to 15 million from four million in 49 years, leading to a lot of pressure on the same little land for farming and social services," Banda said.

The government could not build schools and hospitals fast enough to keep up with the ballooning numbers, she said at celebrations marking the country's independence from Britain in 1964.

Overpopulation in an area half the size of Britain "also led to environmental degradation as people clear land for farming", Banda added.

About 85 percent of Malawians live off subsistence farming.

Malawi is still plagued by endemic poverty as four in ten people live on less than $1 a day.

Its population density will rise to 220 people per square kilometre (0.4 square mile) of arable land by 2028 from the current average of 171, according to the United Nations Development Programme.

This is far above Africa's average of 87 people per square kilometre of arable land.