Mullahs quote Quran in birth control push

Some mullahs in Afghanistan are distributing condoms. Others are quoting the Quran to encourage longer breaks between births. Health experts say contraception is starting to catch on in a country with the world's second highest maternal death rate.

Afghanistan has one of the world's highest fertility rates, averaging more than six babies per woman despite years of war and a severe lack of medical care. Awareness of, and access to, contraceptives remains low among many couples, with Unicef estimating 10% of women use birth control.

But use of the pill, condoms and injected forms of birth control rose to 27% over eight months in three rural areas — up to half the women in one area — once the benefits were explained one-on-one by health workers, according to the report published on Monday in Bulletin, the World Health Organization's journal.

Quotes were used from the Quran to promote breast-feeding for two years, while local religious leaders, or mullahs, explained the importance of spacing out births.

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