The World Health Organization has released new guidelines to help healthcare workers provide better care to more than 200 million women and girls suffering from female genital mutilation (FGM).
The guidance, Management of Health Complications from Female Genital Mutilation, offers a combination of recommendations and best practice advice to help avoid obstetric complications during deinfibulation, to treat the mental and sexual health of those living with FGM, and to improve the quality of information available to women and healthcare workers on the topic.
The report highlights a gap in the training curricula of nurses, midwives and doctors worldwide on the topic of FGM.
To remedy this, the guideline suggests developing resources for both academic and in-service training in an effort to fill these gaps in professional education.
Dr Flavia Bustreo, WHO assistant director general, said: “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.”
“Health workers have a crucial role in helping address this global health issue. They must know how to recognise and tackle health complications of FGM.”
In the guideline, the WHO also warns against the “medicalisation” of FGM – when parents ask doctors to perform the procedure, assuming it will be safer.
“It is critical that health workers do not themselves unwittingly perpetuate this harmful practice,” adds Dr Lale Say, the WHO coordinator for the department of reproductive health and research at WHO.
To achieve this, the WHO suggests creating protocols, manuals and guidelines for health providers, which include what to do when faced with requests from parents to perform FGM or requests from women to perform re-infibulation after giving birth.
As the rate of world migration rises, FGM has become a global concern, prevalent in 30 countries in Africa, as well as countries in Asia and the Middle East.
In the UK, between October and December 2015, there were 1,316 new cases of FGM reported, following the government’s decision to make it mandatory for healthcare professionals to report FGM in girls under 18 to the police.
However, of that number, most cases were found in women over the age of 18.