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Ugandan Health Workers join campaign against Female Genital Mutilation

By Catherine N. Makumbi

Ugandan health workers have committed themselves to save the ‘young generation’ in the campaign to end Female Genital Mutilation.

“Every elder person has undergone FGM. 90% of the girls who give birth here come when they are already cut. We need to save the young generation. As health workers, we have a key role to play,” said Sam Chelego, Incharge of Lemusui Health Centre III in Mourita Sub County, Nakapiripirit District, Karamoja Region, North Eastern Uganda.

Mourita is one of the sub counties in the district where FGM would be practiced in broad day light before the intensified sensitisation campaign by Government of Uganda and the UN Joint Programme on FGM by UNICEF and UNFPA.  For any girl that did not go to school then, they would undergo FGM and automatically qualify for marriage.

Chelego added, “We get challenges when a woman comes to deliver after FGM.  The vulva narrows making it difficult to push. Even just examining them before delivery is not possible” Lemusui is a remote village of Pokot and Kalengin speaking communities. It is 80km (2 hours) from Nakapiripirit town.

As Uganda celebrated the Zero Tolerance Day to FGM on 19th February 2015 in Nakapiripirit, Chelego and other medical personnel shared their experiences of handling girls cut during delivery. Their experiences echoed well with the theme of the day. “Mobilization and involvement of health personnel to accelerate Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation.  The day is internationally celebrated on 6th February.

UNICEF Uganda data indicates that 134, 000 Ugandan girls and women have experienced FGM in the six districts where it is practiced. The districts are Kapchorwa, Bukwo, Kween, Nakapiripirt, Amudat and Moroto. In some areas (for example among the Pokot in Amudat district) the practice is nearly universal with 95% of girls and women practicing it.

The health workers noted that through education to the mothers, traditional birth attendants, village health teams and in primary schools, FGM can be eliminated.  During the celebrations at Mourita Primary School, girls and women sang, danced and handed over cutters (sharp knives) to symbolise their denouncement of the practice. The event was organised by Nakapiripirit District Local Government and UNICEF Uganda.

In a community meeting to receive feedback on the sensitisation campaigns, a retired surgeon, Theresa Nabuli said FGM is not a good practice but culture lured them into cutting girls. She gave up the ‘business’ when government and partners came out to stop the act and also sensitise them on the effects like over bleeding, fistula, non-enjoyment of sex among others. Nabuli says after giving birth to four children, she could not produce anymore as she would have loved.

Dr. John Anguzu, the Nakapiripirit District Health Officer said the fight to end FGM is gathering momentum as communities no longer practice it openly as it was five years ago. He noted that in most villages that are easy to reach, the practice has reduced. The focus is now on hard to reach villages in mountains and caves where it requires camping for weeks to sensitise the population.

Anguzu emphasised that village health teams are critical because they know where FGM is practiced. “The community sensitisation and public dialogues done by UNICEF have been very fruitful,” he explained.

UN Resident Coordinator in Uganda Ms. Ahunna Eziakonwa-Onochie said UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, and UNICEF, through the Joint Programme on FGM remain committed to supporting efforts to provide health workers with the skills and information they need to accelerate the abandonment of FGM – and to treat the complications that arise from the practice. 

In a UN Joint statement read by UNICEF Uganda’s Chief of Moroto Zone Office Rebecca Kwagala, Eziakonwa commended the district and communities for taking lead to end the practice which is depriving the future of the adolescent girls. “The health, rights and well-being of Ugandan girls in the six districts where FGM is practiced depend on it,” she said.

The event concluded with the signing of a declaration to end FGM in Nakapiripirit by the district leadership and political heads.




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