NEW YORK, 6 February 2007 – In spite of a global commitment following the 2002 UN Special Session on Children to end Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) by 2010, the practice is still widespread, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East.
Every year, an estimated three million girls in sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East undergo FGM/C, and more than 130 million women and girls have been subjected to the painful practice, the potential consequences of which include prolonged bleeding, infection, infertility and even death. According to a 2006 WHO study, FGM/C may also lead to obstetrical complications during childbirth. For example, women who have undergone FGM/C are more likely to:
• Require a Cesarean section due to delivery complications; • Experience postpartum hemorrhage; • Require an episiotomy; • Have an extended hospital stay; • Give birth to a child requiring resuscitation;
To put an end to this harmful practice, UNICEF will spearhead a coordinated effort in 2007 to slash FGM/C in 16 African countries by 2015 – the target year for achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
Beyond the 2015 goal, the campaign will aim to eliminate the practice altogether within a generation. UNICEF’s partners in this campaign include other UN agencies, international financial institutions, civil society, academia, the private sector and donor governments. For example, the Italian government showed its commitment to end FGM/C in 2006 by contributing 1.8 million Euros to support FGM/C abandonment programmes in 11 African countries.
The ambitious goal of eliminating FGM/C within a generation can be achieved by building on the progress of existing programmes and practices. Community-based programmes are particularly effective in combating the problem. Among those efforts that have already met with success are:
• Tostan, a community-led education project in Senegal supported by UNICEF. Tostan has been instrumental in inspiring tens of thousands of people to declare their abandonment of FGM/C.
• The ‘FGM-Free Village Model’ project in Egypt, which brings together government, UN partners and NGOs to encourage villages to make public declarations against FGM/C.
• Sudan’s religious leaders are using their authority to affirm that FGM/C is a violation of spiritual and theological principles. Methods such as these have already led to a decline in the practice of FGM/C in some countries – among them the Central African Republic, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria and Yemen.
UNICEF is on the ground in 156 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.