Saving Women and Children’s Lives


Afghanistan has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world.  According to the WHO, family planning is one of the key methods that can be used to lower both maternal and infant mortality.

Source: S.O. Rutstein. 2005. Effects of preceding birth intervals on neonatal, infant and under five years mortality and nutritional status in developing countries: Evidence from the demographic and health surveys. International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics, 89: S7-S24.

Progress has been made in increasing contraception rates in Afghanistan.  The Ministry of Health has been an advocate for birth spacing and family planning.  However, efforts are complicated by misconceptions on the part of Afghan families, as well as opposing views on the part of anti-government forces.

Current prevalence rates for contraception use are estimated at about 22%.  Although this is significant, in order to improve child and maternal mortality more needs to be done.  International donors, NGOs and other interested parties won’t want to give money for supplies and medications that will end up in a landfill.  A greater market for contraceptives needs to be created.

Luckily, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation in cooperation with the WHO has come up with a recipe for success.  By educating at a local level and including rural village elders and and religious leaders more receptive attitudes towards contraception were created, leading to greater usage.  Additionally, it is important to address the reality of medical decision making for women in Afghanistan.  Social marketing for contraception needs to be aimed at men, as advocated by Cultures of Resistance.

Recent statements from the Taliban provide hope that women’s issues and the health of Afghan families can be depoliticized.  This should be capitalized upon in order to generate momentum for family planning programs.  The Afghan Ministry of Health should plan a social marketing program in a few key provinces using their proven strategies. Success on this scale will  convince donors to support a national roll-out.

Improving the lot of the most vulnerable is something we can all agree upon.


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One Response to “Saving Women and Children’s Lives”

  1. anitha67 Says:

    ank you for sharing this post. It’s noteworthy that there is a focus towards men as some society’s are patriarchal. This highlights a similar situation I recently viewed on CNN. David McKenzie was reporting on a Kenyan woman’s struggle to access contraceptives, for her health and the well-being of her children, without her husband’s knowledge. The report brought to light the grassroots start of this movement where local women were taking the initiative to respond to health issues.

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