The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recommended treating obstetric complications, depression and anxiety disorders; attention to female sexual health such as counselling, and the provision of information and education for more than 200 million girls and women worldwide living with female genital mutilation (FGM).
Female genital mutilation (FGM) describes all procedures that involve the partial or total removal of external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. FGM has no health benefits, can cause grave harm, and violates the rights of girls and women.
Procedures can cause severe bleeding, problems urinating, and later cysts, infections, and death. FGM can also result in complications in childbirth and increased risk of newborn deaths.
The world health body said, health workers need to be prepared to provide care to girls and women who have undergone FGM. But, health workers are often unaware of the many negative health consequences of FGM and many remain inadequately trained to recognize and treat them properly. As a result, many women may suffer needlessly from physical and mental health consequences due to FGM.
“Health workers have a crucial role in helping address this global health issue. They must know how to recognize and tackle health complications of FGM,” says Dr Flavia Bustreo, WHO Assistant Director General. “Access to the right information and good training can help prevent new cases and ensure that the millions of women who have undergone FGM get the help they need.”
New WHO guidelines to improve care for millions living with FGM warn against the so called “medicalization” of FGM, for example when parents ask health providers to conduct FGM because they think it will be less harmful.
“It is critical that health workers do not themselves unwittingly perpetuate this harmful practice,” adds Dr Lale Say, WHO Coordinator, Department of Reproductive Health and Research at WHO.
The guidelines also highlight the need for more research to improve evidence-based practice, so that health workers can better manage the complications arising from FGM, and the health community is better informed about the associated health risks, which also can contribute to effectively work towards the elimination of this harmful practice.