TWEET CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT: Preventing the spread of COVID-19 as we work together to end FGM – 02.04.2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads around the world, an unprecedented number of people are participating in forms of self-isolation, lockdown or quarantine.

With the School close-down in Nigeria, (due to the outbreak of COVID-19), girls in Nigeria are at risk of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and are to be protected from FGM.  

Some FGM practicing community may start taking advantage of the schools’ closure, and mutilate girls when they get home.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) includes all procedures that involve the partial or total removal of external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. @WHO

The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies FGM into four types, and all four types are all practiced in Nigeria.  @WHO @endcuttinggirls

Type I: partial or total removal of the clitoris and/or the prepuce (Clitoridectomy). Subgroups of Type I FGM are: type Ia, removal of the clitoral hood or prepuce only; type Ib, removal of the clitoris with the prepuce.

Type II: partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora (excision). Subgroups of Type II FGM are: type IIa, removal of the labia minora only; type IIb, partial or total removal of the clitoris and labia minora; type IIc, partial or total removal of the clitoris, labia minora and labia majora.

Type III: narrowing of the vaginal orifice with creation of a covering seal by cutting and appositioning the labia minora and/or the labia majora, with or without excision of the clitoris (infibulation). Subgroups of Type III FGM are: type IIIa, removal and apposition of the labia minora; type IIIb, removal and apposition of the labia majora.

Reinfibulation is covered under this definition. This is a procedure to recreate an infibulation, for example after childbirth when defibulation is necessary.

Type IV: unclassified – all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for nonmedical purposes, for example, pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterization. Type IV also includes the practice of “massaging” or applying petroleum jelly, herbal concoctions or hot water to the clitoris to desensitize it or pushing it back into the body, which is common in many parts of Nigeria, especially Imo State.

FGM is mostly carried out by traditional circumcisers, who may have other roles in the community, such as Traditional Birth Attendants. In other instances, willing medical professionals are be sought out by parents to have the procedure carried out on their daughters.  

FGM has no known health benefit, and is harmful to girls and women. It involves altering, removing and/or damaging otherwise healthy female genital tissue.

It is estimated that over 200 million girls and women worldwide are living with the effects of FGM, and every year some 3 million girls and women are at risk of FGM and are therefore exposed to its potential negative health consequences (UNICEF 2016).

In Nigeria, the Nigeria Demographic Health Survey (NDHS 2018) revealed that 20% of women aged 15-49 years had undergone FGM, a decrease from 25% (2013). 

For more information about FGM you can visit http://www.who.int or watch

Now let us learn about COVID-19, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), and how to prevent its spread as we work together to end FGM.  Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus.  

Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment.   

The symptoms start with a fever followed by a dry cough, which can lead to breathing problems. It takes 5 days on average to start showing symptoms. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) the incubation period lasts up to 14days.  

Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness.  

The best way to prevent and slow down transmission is be well informed about the COVID-19 virus, the disease it causes and how it spreads.  

Protect yourself and others from infection by washing your hands or using an alcohol based rub (hand sanitizer) frequently and not touching your face. 

The COVID-19 virus spreads primarily through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose when an infected person coughs or sneezes, so it’s important that you also practice respiratory etiquette (for example, by coughing into a flexed elbow).  

At this time, there are no specific vaccines or treatments for COVID-19. However, there are many ongoing clinical trials evaluating potential treatments.  

WHO will continue to provide updated information as soon as clinical findings become available.  For more information about COVID-19 you can visit https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus#tab=tab_2

Most FGM rituals involving coming together of people, this goes against the social distance guideline as a measure of preventing COVID-19 and can spread the virus.  

COVID-19 could be spread from person to person most especially in FGM practice communities where FGM is performed as a rite of passage.  

Parents that takes their children to cutters secretly for FGM will also be contributing to the spread of COVID-19.  If the cutter is infected with the virus, she can transmitt it to the child or vice versa.  

In this challenging time, the need to respond to follow the WHO guidelines for the prevention of COVID 19 to ensure that the virus does not spread as we work together to end FGM. Please remember to follow the six steps in tweets 34b-g to prevent catching or spreading  

  • Step 1: wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use a sanitizer  
  • Step 2: Catch coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues,  
  • Step 3: throw away used tissues (then wash your hand),  
  • Step 4: If you don’t have a tissue cough into your sleeve (elbow);
  • Step5: avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands;  
  • Step 6: avoid close contact with people who are unwell.  

UNICEF_Nigeria trained End FGM Community based surveillance team are on ground to report suspected cases of FGM despite the ongoing crisis.  

The @UNICEF_Nigeria State partners will continue to respond to reported cases of FGM as we work together to prevent the spread of COVID-19 while ensuring that girls safe from FGM.  

At this point, I will stop the conversation so we can reflect on the key points discussed as I entertain any questions.  

Thanks for being part of the conversations today. Join us every other Thursday 5-7pm. Visit our  www.endcuttinggirls.org for more info and updates on FGM, and kindly follow the handle “Endcuttinggirls Nigeria’’ on all social media platforms.  @Endcuttinggirls

Together we will end FGM in this Generation.   

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