Afghanistan: Can condoms fulfill multiple
KABUL, 6 May 2008 (IRIN) - Millions of condoms will
be distributed across Afghanistan in 2008 in a new
drive to prevent sexually transmitted diseases, reduce
maternal mortality and improve family planning, aid
agencies and the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH)
Millions of condoms have been purchased and
imported into Afghanistan by international aid
organisations and will be offered either free or at an
affordable price (around 2 US cents) to Afghan couples
through thousands of health facilities, private
pharmacies and general stores.
The MoPH said it had received about three million
condoms from donor organisations, including the UN
Population Fund (UNFPA), all of which will be
distributed for free in 2008.
Marie Stopes International (MSI), a UK-based
organisation dealing with family planning, said it
would offer 2.5 million condoms at subsidised prices
in local markets.
"The attitude of many Afghans is changing," Farhad
Javid, the MSI programme director in Kabul, told IRIN.
"And condom usage has been increasing," he said,
adding that there was still a need to boost public
awareness in order to increase condom demand.
"We are promoting condom usage to achieve a number
of public health targets," said Abdullah Fahim, a
spokesman of the MoPH.
Several positive points
The condom has found its way into conservative
Afghanistan over the past six years. The number of
users has risen sharply in urban areas, say officials.
During Taliban rule, and indeed before that, the
subject of condoms and sex was widely considered taboo
and rarely discussed in public.
"There are several positive points about a condom;
it controls sexually transmitted diseases such as
HIV/AIDS, it can be used as a contraceptive, and it is
safe," said Fahim.
The exact number of Afghans living with HIV/AIDS is
unknown, but MoPH estimates at least 3,000 people
might have been infected by the virus. Most are
undiagnosed and lack adequate awareness about the
risks of HIV/AIDS.
Health specialists said Afghanistan could have an
effective HIV/AIDS control policy if it effectively
promoted the use of condoms.
Reducing maternal mortality
According to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), at
least two women die every hour in Afghanistan due to
obstetric-and-pregnancy-related complications – 1,600
deaths per 100,000 live births – which places the
war-torn country second to Sierra Leone in terms of
its maternal mortality rate.
Lack of access to health services, malnourishment,
early marriages and multiple pregnancies are the main
reasons for Afghanistan's high maternal mortality
rate, according to MoPH.
"If we ensure at least a two-year gap between
pregnancies we will definitely reduce maternal
mortality," Hamida Ebadi, director of the Safe
Motherhood Department in the MoPH, told IRIN, adding
that condoms could be an "effective" and "reliable"
"It's also in line with Islamic principles that a
mother should have a gap between pregnancies," she
In addition to condoms, the MoPH and aid agencies
provide other contraceptives, including pills,
injections and intrauterine devices, in order to
prevent unplanned pregnancies and mitigate health
Condoms are also considered a very important tool
for family planning and population growth control,
Javid of MSI said. The average Afghan woman has 7-8
pregnancies (a fertility rate of 7.11) and most
females marry before the age of 18, aid agencies
"Should the current 3.5 percent annual population
growth rate continue Afghanistan will have over 65
million people by 2050," Javid said.
Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), a
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Humanitarian Affairs. IRIN is UN humanitarian news and
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the views of the United Nations or its agencies.
[This report does not necessarily
reflect the views of the United Nations]