A step forward in assisting girls and women living with FGM

WHO

On 15–16 March 2017, experts from 14 countries of the WHO European Region met at Sheffield Hallam University in Sheffield, England, for a consultation organized by WHO. Their focus was on how best to implement available guidelines on the prevention and management of complications caused by female genital mutilation (FGM).

Health care providers are often ill-equipped to understand and address the causes and manifestations of FGM. It is therefore crucial to increase their knowledge, competences and skills in detecting and preventing complications without further discriminating against or stigmatizing girls and women living with FGM.

Experts at the consultation reviewed the progress of practice and research activities in this area and established new contacts. Experts suggested number of ways how to ensure that each professional who contacts a girl or a woman with FGM is aware of the recently published “WHO guidelines on the management of health complications from female genital mutilation”.

Those from countries with defined policies, action plans and national guidelines on prevention and management of FGM shared experience with participants from WHO Member States where health professionals are less familiar with the health consequences of FGM. They emphasized the importance of taking a joint approach that includes different groups of health professionals – including nurses, midwifes, general practitioners, mental health specialists, paediatricians, urologists, obstetricians and gynaecologists – as well as social workers, police, teachers and many others.

Each child, adolescent girl or woman living with FGM requires professional counselling and access to quality health care. To reach this objective, countries must overcome a number of obstacles; these include language barriers, lack of capacity to communicate on sensitive matters, lack of funding, difficulties in involving communities and negative attitudes towards migrants.

European countries agreed to leave no one behind when approving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and many related WHO policies and action plans. Now it is time to act. WHO and the experts who participated in the consultation are ready and eager to help.