WHO reiterates need to eliminate FGM

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A Media Information:

The World Health Organization has re-iterated its call to Member States in the African Region to eliminate Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), often referred to as female circumcision.”

The practice – still prevalent in at least 27 African countries – comprises all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injures to the female genital organs whether for cultural, religious or other non-therapeutic reasons. 

In a message to mark the first International Day on Zero Tolerance to FGM (to be observed on 6 February 2004), the WHO Regional Director for Africa (AFRO), Dr Ebrahim M. Samba said, “I appeal to all (African) countries and their (development) partners to ensure that this practice is eliminated in our continent.”

It is estimated that every year two million girls in Africa are subjected to FGM, thus compromising their chances of having a normal sexual and reproductive life, and jeopardizing not only their survival but that of their unborn children.

Immediate complications include severe pain, shock, hemorrhage, urinary retention, ulceration of the genital region and injury to adjacent tissue. Hemorrhage and infection can cause death.

More recently, concern has arisen about possible transmission of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) due to the use of one instrument in multiple operations.

Long-term consequences include cysts and abscesses, damage to the urethra resulting in urinary incontinence, sexual dysfunction and difficulties with childbirth. Also, FGM may leave a lasting mark on the life and mind of the women who have undergone it and in the longer term, women may suffer feelings of incompleteness, anxiety and depression.

Dr Samba described FGM as “a gross violation of the fundamental rights of girls and women” who undergo the procedure which often results in grave consequences for their physical and mental health.

WHO is in the forefront of efforts to stem the tide of FGM practice in Africa. In 1997, the WHO Regional Office for Africa launched a 20-year Regional Plan of Action (1996 – 2015) to accelerate the elimination of FGM and further improve the health and quality of life of women and girls in the Region.

Based on the Action Plan, AFRO has developed a number of interventions to support countries in the Region in their effort to put an end to FGM. These include:

  • development of policies and programmes for FGM elimination;
  • implementation of research, especially operational research, to inform policies and programmes;
  • establishment of a regional data base on Harmful Traditional Practices and Female Genital Mutilation to better monitor and evaluate the situation in the Region;
  • improvement of the capacity of health professionals for FGM prevention and care; § advocacy for FGM elimination, and
  • implementation of community-based activities

For further information: … (full text).

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