Top of mind right now is the food crisis,” said Helen Clark after her meeting with President Joyce Banda. “We discussed the work that can be done with the UN and other development partners to support Malawians through this crisis. We talked about the need for the response to the food crisis to build in greater resilience for the future. More can be done, for example, to build water infrastructure and on reforestation.”

Food security has become a significant issue in Malawi. It is estimated that some 1.8 million people will need relief support until the next rainy season.

In addition to meeting with President Banda, Helen Clark also met with Mganga Chiume , Minister of Foreign Affairs, the women’s parliamentary caucus, and civil society organization leaders.

“Malawi has a woman president and 22 per cent of parliamentarians are women. This creates opportunities to ensure that development progress embraces the women of Malawi,” Helen Clark said at the meeting with women MPs

Malawi has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the region (675 per 100,000 live births), in spite of skilled attendance at birth increasing from 54% to 73% in 2010. Only two per cent of pregnant women have access to emergency obstetric care. Access to sexual and reproductive health services is still limited, particularly in rural areas. Gender-related Millennium Development Goals 2, 3 and 5 are currently unlikely to be achieved by 2015, but there is much that can be done to accelerate progress.

Tomorrow Helen Clark will visit a UNDP-supported batik factory which promotes women’s economic empowerment through entrepreneurship. She will also visit Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe to observe the work of UN Volunteer doctors providing essential health services to the people of Malawi.

Helen Clark became the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme in April 2009, and is the first woman to lead the organisation. She is also the chair of the United Nations Development Group, a committee consisting of the heads of all UN funds, programmes and departments working on development issues.

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