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Family planning is one of the key tools which can lift a nation out of poverty, drastically improve the health of the nation’s mothers, their children, improve the household economic situation and for women it presents an opportunity to pursue additional education and participate in public life. 

UNFPA believes that rights-based and voluntary family planning (including birth spacing) is one of the most critical interventions for achieving sustainable development in Afghanistan and help to realize a demographic dividend.

Inadequate access to family planning and birth spacing services is linked to early drop out of school, poverty, maternal and child mortality and other pregnancy and childbirth related complications and injuries, for example, fistulas.

Evidence shows that the more years of schooling boys and girls receive, the more likely they are to delay marriage (especially to after 18 years of age) and to delay childbearing.  This, in turn, enhances the chances of living a healthy life, gaining a higher education and achieving an income.

UNFPA in Afghanistan is working closely with the Ministry of Public Health and Afghan communities to promote rights-based Family Planning/birth spacing services.

In Afghanistan, the most well-known methods of family planning are condoms, contraceptive pills, and female hormone injections.  However, the use of long-acting reversible contraception, such as Intrauterine Contraceptive Devices (IUCD), is very low in Afghanistan usually due to lack of capacity to provide such services.

To meet such need, the UNFPA introduced an initiative that saw 100 family planning service providers from 4 provinces that have low contraceptive prevalence rate, trained in implants and IUCD. After the training, UNFPA provided all the trainees with the required medical equipment to supply implant and IUCD services. The trainees are currently being monitored for quality of services.  Furthermore, this initiative was complemented by involving religious and community leaders (often the gatekeepers of communities) to eliminate the myths and misconceptions regarding family planning. 

The key successes go beyond the training of medical staff, beyond the early take-up of implants and IUCDs of women in these 4 provinces; for the first time many of the religious leaders have recognized that family planning methods are incongruent with the religious teachings and consequently they are supporting wider efforts to increase family planning of their community members.  It is expected that the training and awareness raising will help to greatly enhance the use of long-term reversible contraceptives in the country.