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Nigeria ranked third among countries with highest female genital mutilation cases – UNICEF

Nigeria accounts for the third-highest number of women and girls who have undergone Female Genital Mutilation worldwide, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund.

Lamenting the worrying trend of the practice in Nigeria, the UN body said FGM is on the rise among Nigerian girls aged 0-14, noting that the rates have risen from 16.9 per cent in 2013 to 19.2 per cent in 2018.

“Female genital mutilation remains widespread in Nigeria. With an estimated 19.9 million survivors, Nigeria accounts for the third-highest number of women and girls who have undergone FGM worldwide.

“While the national prevalence of FGM among women in Nigeria aged 15-49 dropped from 25 per cent in 2013 to 20 per cent in 2018, prevalence among girls aged 0-14 increased from 16.9 per cent to 19.2 per cent in the same period, according to NDHS figures.

“An estimated 86 per cent of females were cut before the age of 5, while 8 per cent were cut between ages 5 and 14,” UNICEF said in a press release made available to PUNCH HealthWise.

As the world today commemorates the International Day of Zero Tolerance of FGM, UNICEF said 68 million girls worldwide were estimated to be at risk of FGM between 2015 and 2030. 

As COVID-19 continues to close schools and disrupt programmes that help protect girls from this harmful practice, an additional 2 million additional cases of FGM may occur over the next decade, UNICEF says.

“Millions of girls are being robbed of their childhoods, health, education, and aspirations every day by harmful practices such as FGM.

“The practice of FGM not only has no health benefits – it is deeply harmful to girls and women, both physically and psychologically. It is a practice that has no place in our society today and must be ended, as many Nigerian communities have already pledged to do,” said UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Peter Hawkins. 

UNICEF also added that disparities in the practice exist across Nigeria, noting that state prevalence ranges from 62 per cent in Imo to less than one per cent in Adamawa and Gombe. The prevalence of FGM is highest in the South East (35 per cent) and South West (30 percent) and lowest in the North East (6 per cent).

UNICEF is initiating a community-led movement to eliminate FGM in five Nigerian states where it is highly prevalent: Ebonyi, Ekiti, Imo, Osun, and Oyo. 

“Nearly three million girls and women would have undergone FGM in these states in the last five years,” it said.

“The Movement for Good” will reach five million adolescent girls and boys, women – including especially pregnant and lactating mothers – men, grandparents, and traditional, community and religious leaders, legislators, justice sector actors, and state officials through an online pledge to ‘say no’ to FGM. 

“The movement will mobilise affected communities for concrete action at the household level to protect girls at risk of FGM. It will challenge misconceptions about FGM and the discriminatory reasons it is practiced and break the silence around the practice together with communities.

“FGM is recognised internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes and is an extreme form of discrimination against girls and women. It is nearly always carried out on children and is a violation of children’s rights. The practice also violates a person’s rights to health, security, and physical integrity; the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment; and the right to life, in instances when the procedure results in death.” UNICEF stated.

Hawkins said the International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM “reminds us that we are not alone in this work and that we need to accelerate efforts – especially with families and communities – to achieve a Nigeria safe for girls and women and finally free of FGM.”

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