THE World Health Organization (WHO) has published its first guidelines to help health workers treat women and girls suffering physical and mental trauma as a result of female genital mutilation (FGM). The term includes all practices that involve partial or total removal of external female genitalia for non-medical reasons.
About 200 million women and girls around the world are estimated to be living with the effects of FGM, many of them in Africa and parts of Asia. With rising migration, however, it is also becoming more prevalent in Western countries.
About 137,000 women and girls in England and Wales are thought to be living with the side-effects of FGM, after having the procedure carried out overseas.
The report, WHO Guidelines on the Management of Health Complications from Female Genital Mutilation, focuses on preventing and treating complications, which can include bleeding and infections, sexual dysfunction, problems with giving birth, and a high risk of infant mortality; besides treating the anxiety, stress, and trauma that results from the procedure.
Many health workers are unaware of the health consequences, and are not trained adequately to deal with them , the WHO has found. Their guidelines warn against the so-called “medicalization” of the practice — as when parents ask health providers to conduct it because they that it will be less harmful for their daughters
“Health workers have a crucial role in helping address this global health issue,” the WHO’s assistant director-general, Dr Flavia Bustreo, said.
“Access to the right information and good training can help prevent new cases and ensure that the millions of women who have undergone FGM get the help they need.”