Afghanistan

Female community health worker teaching mothers to improve hygiene and preventing diarrhea in their homes through regular hand washing.

Many children in Afghanistan die each year of easily preventable diseases; nearly 25% of those deaths are due to diarrhea. However, it is not only the fatal cases of severe diarrhea that are imperative to address. Between a quarter and a half of mothers of children less than five years old report their child had diarrhea in the two weeks prior to questioning. These frequent cases of diarrhea are among the main causes of under nutrition, which delays development and is implicated in over half of all childhood deaths.

One of the most effective ways of preventing diarrhea is to improve hygiene in the home, especially through regular hand washing with soap before preparing and eating food, after using the toilet or handling a child’s feces.

A common challenge in advancing family planning is overcoming the misconceptions religious leaders have about the use of contraceptives.

Concerns from religious leaders are often based on misconceptions about family planning methods rather than their religious beliefs. The fear that hormonal methods will cause infertility or are dangerous, are commonly expressed as concerns from religious leaders.

These methods are 300 times safer than becoming pregnant in Afghanistan and about 100 times safer than pregnancy in Yemen, Malawi, and Tanzania is an appropriate way to look at the risks versus benefits.  My experience in these four countries has been that this message was well received by both Muslims and Christians, along with the sound evidence for improved child and maternal health outcomes with healthy timing and spacing of pregnancy (HTSP). 

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