UNICEF raises alarm over increase in female genital mutilation in Nigeria

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The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has raised an alarm over the increase in female genital mutilation among Nigerian girls aged 0-14.

Peter Hawkins, the UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, who raised the alarm via a press statement on Saturday, said the rate of FGM among the age group has risen from 16.9 per cent in 2013 to 19.2 per cent in 2018.

Stressing that Nigeria accounts for the third-highest number of women and girls who have undergone FGM worldwide, an estimated 86 per cent of females, according to him “were cut before the age of 5, while 8 per cent were cut between ages 5 and 14.”

He added that Nigeria has an estimated 19.9 million survivors.

While the national prevalence of FGM among women in Nigeria, aged 15-49, dropped from 25 per cent in 2013 to 20 per cent in 2018, prevalence among girls aged 0-14, he said has increased from 16.9 per cent to 19.2 per cent in the same period.

Hawkins, who issued the statement in commemoration of the world International Day of Zero Tolerance of FGM, said 68 million girls worldwide were estimated to be at risk of female genital mutilation between 2015 and 2030.

Citing COVID-19, which he said has continued to close schools and disrupt programmes that help protect girls, an additional two million additional cases of FGM may occur over the next decade.

He said FGM not only has no health benefits, but it is also deeply harmful to girls and women, both physically and psychologically.

Piqued that disparities in the practice exist across the country, state prevalence, he said ranges from 62 per cent in Imo to less than 1 per cent in Adamawa and Gombe, stating that “the prevalence of FGM is highest in the South East (35 per cent) and South West (30 per cent) and lowest in the North East (6 per cent).”

Hawkins said all must be on deck to end the practice which violates the females’ rights to health, security and physical integrity.

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