November 30, 2023
Dr Paul Mushombe Nibhumba: Testimonial from Doctors of the World Medical Coordinator in Mali
Often occurring within the first week of their birth, girls undergo a process called infibulation which involves a total ablation of the clitoris and labia minora followed by an almost total closure of the labia majora.
This practice has severe consequences on a woman’s sexual and reproductive health including urinary disorders, amenorrhea, sterility and bacterial infections. The procedure creates even more complications when a woman becomes pregnant and during childbirth – endangering both the health of mother and her newborn child.
In Afar, Doctors of the World is working to prevent FGM. Our teams provide information to the local community about the health risks associated with the practice and train healthcare professionals how to care for pregnant women who have been mutilated as children. Our team also works in a close partnership with ACISDA, a local association working to raise awareness about the risks of performing FGM.
In our awareness building workshops, we work with various affected groups such as school children, young mothers, and pregnant women. Trained mediators run these groups with the help of participating school teachers and religious leaders.
Blandine Britis Bedbeder, the Medical Advisor for our program in Ethiopia, described how “A traditional birth attendant is the one who carries out the practice in people’s homes. Although FGM is completely illegal in Ethiopia, it is said to have occurred for hundreds of years. The women who have undergone this practice when they were just babies do not remember it. So for as long as they can remember, they have been this way. That makes changing attitudes about it the biggest challenge – because it is all they know, and they are unaware of what life would be like normally. When I saw one woman closed like that for the first time and saw how painful it was to give birth that way – it was really hard.”
Doctors of the World also provides health facilities with medicine and equipment in order to improve conditions in Afar’s clinics and hospitals.
In recent years, the prevalence of FGM practices has been slowly decreasing due to increased awareness about the serious health complications it causes. Our teams remain committed to providing healthcare for women and girls in Afar and advocating for an end to FGM in the region.