Positive sign

FGM prevalence rates in dramatic decline across Africa, study finds

(YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images)

All too often the news we report on FGM is not of the good variety. Therefore, it’s great to buck that trend once in a while as was the case with a newly-released study on the problem.

In a positive sign for public health advocates and countless at-risk children, a new study on female genital mutilation has found that the prevalence of the practice appears to be declining dramatically — especially among young girls in East Africa. According to a study published in BMJ Global Health, FGM rates among girls aged 14 and under in East Africa had dropped from 71.4 percent in 1995 to just 8 percent in 2016. In North Africa, the prevalence of FGM among young children dropped from 57.7 percent in 1990 to 14.1 percent in 2015, while West Africa saw a similarly dramatic decline from a 73.6 percent prevalence rate in 1996 to a 25.4 percent rate in 2017. These massive shifts has been attributed to the success of FGM awareness campaigns — especially those targeting mothers — and national laws banning the practice that were introduced in 22 out of 28 African countries where FGM is common.

While the prevalence rate of FGM may be declining, activists such as UNFPA-Unicef joint program coordinator Nafissatou Diop have warned that the positive results of the study should be taken with a grain of salt. The data from the study, Diop explained, could be misleading since many ethnic groups waited until girls were in their teens before subjecting them to genital cutting. And the number of women predicted to be impacted by FGM will likely rise to 4.6 million by 2030, as the areas in which FGM is common are also areas expected to see large increases in population growth, according to the United Nations Population Fund. Without further preventative efforts, Diop said, the current positive trend could easily reverse itself. But for now, activists are happy to celebrate a sign that their efforts are having real and significant impact on the lives of young girls across the African continent and beyond.

Read the full story at The Guardian.

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