Doctors in the United States, Europe, and other places where survivors of female genital mutilation, known as FGM, have been immigrating in recent years now have new guidelines from the World Health Organization on how to deal with complications from the practice. More than 200 million women and girls worldwide live with FGM, including a quickly-growing number within the U.S. Estimates currently put the figure around 500,000 for girls at risk of FGM, many of them immigrants from Ethiopia, Somalia, and Egypt. The figure is now double what it was in the year 2000.
Survivors of FGM often have complications including infections, cysts, depression, PTSD, sexual dysfunction, and chronic pain. The new guidelines recommend procedures doctors can use to help ease suffering or reverse some of the damage from FGM, including reopening scar tissue and offering cognitive behavioral therapy and sexual counseling. Advocates of the guidelines say they hope that the more that doctors and medical health professionals know about FGM, the more they can help stop the practice and mitigate its effects.
“It is critical that health workers do not themselves unwittingly perpetuate this harmful practice,” Dr. Lale Say, a coordinator at the WHO’s Department of Reproductive Health and Research at WHO, said Monday.