Capital Hill has said it is prepared to sign the highly contentious World Health Organisation (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), based on indicators on the ground.
The development comes when only three tobacco growing countries in Africa— namely Malawi, Ethiopia and Eritrea—are yet to sign the treaty.
The FCTC was developed in response to the globalisation of the tobacco epidemic and is an evidence-based treaty that reaffirms the right of all people to the highest standard of health.
The convention represents a milestone for the promotion of public health and provides new legal dimensions for international health cooperation.
For a long time, tobacco growing nations, including Malawi, have been skeptical on signing the pact.
But Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Controller of Agriculture Services, Alexander Bulirani, said the matter is being discussed at the highest level of government.
“It is becoming clear from the indicators on the ground that we need to sign. The issue is that we think it is better at this stage that we go and fight from inside.
“We should be there, because whether we are there or not people are going to make decisions on tobacco. Now the important thing is that, when we are inside, we can then give out our perspective,” he said.
Bulirani said, apart from voicing out Malawi issues on tobacco from inside, farmers will be able to benefit and get protection from the treaty.
He said there are possibilities within the treaty to get financial assistance which can trickle down to farmers to try and help them diversify and uplift their livelihoods.
“Through the convention, our tobacco farmer is safe as there are provisions that are looking at environment, trading of illicit tobacco which, if not controlled, could affect the farmer through illegal importation of raw tobacco or finished products. So the convention will in a way make sure that those practices are not there anymore,” Bulirani said.
WHO FCTC is the first international treaty negotiated under the auspices of WHO.It was adopted by the World Health Assembly on May 21 2003 and entered into force on February 27 2005.
It has since become one of the most rapidly and widely embraced treaties in United Nations history.