WHO puts global spending on treatment of FGM at $1.4 bn
Female genital mutilation (FGM) exacts a crippling economic as well as human cost, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.
WHO made the announcement as part of activities organised to commemorate the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation, the practice of altering or injuring the female genitalia for non-medical reasons.
New modelling reveals that the total costs of treating the health impacts of FGM would amount to USD 1.4 billion globally per year, if all resulting medical needs were addressed. For individual countries, these costs would near 10% of their entire yearly expenditure on health on average; in some countries, this figure rises to as much as 30%.
The interactive modelling tool that generated these data was launched on the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation.
“FGM is not only a catastrophic abuse of human rights that significantly harms the physical and mental health of millions of girls and women; it is also a drain on a country’s vital economic resources,” said Dr Ian Askew, Director of WHO’s Department of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Research. “More investment is urgently needed to stop FGM and end the suffering it inflicts.”
The costs of FGM, associated with gynaecological, obstetric, urological, mental and sexual, and the immediate health complications, can make up to 30 per cent of the health budget in some countries.
WHO described FGM as a violation of human rights and an extreme form of gender discrimination.
According to the Director of WHO Sexual Health Department, Ian Askew, FGM is not only an abuse of human rights that harms the physical/mental health of millions of girls/women, it is also a drain on a country’s economy.
“More investment is urgently needed to stop FGM and end the suffering it inflicts. At least 200 million girls and women alive today, living in 31 countries, have undergone FGM.
“The practice is widespread in some countries in Africa, the Middle East and also Indonesia,” Askew said.
According to estimates by UNICEF, more than 90 per cent of girls in Somalia, Guinea, and Djibouti are victims of FGM.
“High healthcare costs for countries mount because of the tragic personal impacts on women and girls. Governments have a moral responsibility to help end this harmful practice,” says Dr Prosper Tumusiime, Acting Director for Universal Health Coverage and the Life Course in the African Regional Office of WHO. “FGM hurts girls, imposes lifelong health risks on the women they become, and strains the healthcare systems that need to treat them.”
WHO says using data from 27 high-prevalence countries, the Cost Calculator demonstrates clear economic benefits from ending FGM. If it were abandoned now, it shows that the associated savings in health costs would be more than 60% by 2050.
In contrast, if no action is taken, it is estimated that these costs will soar by 50% over the same time period, as populations grow and as more girls undergo the procedure.
Since 1997, great efforts have been made to end FGM, through work within communities, research, and changes in legislation and policy. 26 countries in Africa and the Middle East now explicitly legislate against FGM, as well as 33 other countries with migrant populations from FGM-practicing countries.