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Teens Still At Risk But FGM Rate Goes Down in Africa: Research

Although girls under 14 are most at risk, research should include those aged 15 to 19

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FILE - A T-shirt warns against female genital mutilation. Its wearer attends an event, discouraging harmful practices such as FGM, at a girls high school in Imbirikani, Kenya, April 21, 2016. VOA
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Female genital mutilation (FGM) has dropped drastically among African children this century, research shows, but campaigners said Wednesday that teenagers and young women remained at risk of the harmful practice.

Known as FGM, female genital mutilation is a ritual that usually involves the partial or total removal of the external genitalia, including the clitoris.

Cutting is a rite of passage in many societies, often with the aim of promoting chastity. It can cause chronic pain, menstrual problems, recurrent urinary tract infections, cysts and infertility. Some girls hemorrhage to death or die from infections. It can also cause fatal childbirth complications in later life.

FGM
Amran Mahamood used to circumcise young girls in Hargeysa, Somalia, but stopped after a religious leader convinced her the rite was not required by Islamic law. VOA

Analyzing data spanning more than 20 years, BMJ Global Health said in a study there was a “huge and significant decline” in FGM in children under 14 across Africa.

East Africa had the biggest fall in its prevalence rates, dropping to 8 percent in 2016 from 71 percent in 1995, according to the BMJ study published Tuesday.

In north Africa, prevalence rates fell to 14 percent in 2015 from nearly 60 percent in 1990, the report said; west Africa dropped to about 25 percent in 2017, from 74 percent in 1996.

UNICEF, the U.N. children’s agency, estimates that 200 million women and girls globally have undergone FGM, with the highest prevalence in Africa and parts of the Middle East.

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Maasai girls and a man watch a video on a mobile phone prior to the start of a social event advocating against harmful practices such as female genital mutilation at the Imbirikani Girls High School in Imbirikani, Kenya. VOA

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Campaigners welcomed the drop but said FGM also affects teenagers and young women, demographic groups outside the study.

“We are pleased to see that the numbers are coming down in a lot of countries,” said Emma Lightowlers, a spokeswoman for campaign group 28TooMany, which does research on FGM in Africa. “But it doesn’t tell the whole story and there are other groups where cutting takes place after the age of 14. It takes place in teenagers, or in fact, even in women in preparation for marriage,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Female Genital Mutilation, FGM
A badge reads “The power of labor against FGM” is seen on a volunteer during a conference on International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Cairo, Egypt, Feb. 6, 2018. (VOA)

Julia Lalla-Maharajh, founder of the Orchid Project, which campaigns against female genital cutting, agreed.

“Growing efforts to end the practice are having an impact [but] girls in this group may still be cut when they get older,” she said in an email to the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Also Read: The Next Big Advance in Technology May Come From Africa

Although girls under 14 are most at risk, research should include those aged 15 to 19, said British-based charity Forward, which supports FGM survivors from African communities.

“This data should not make us complacent to say that all those girls are risk-free,” said Naana Otoo-Oyortey, head of Forward. “We need to work towards ensuring these girls are supported and protected from FGM.” (VOA)

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Thousands of Africans Fatally Affected Due To Fake Drugs

In Ivory Coast, many cannot afford to shop in pharmacies.

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Drugs, Africa
A street vendor sells illegal and false drugs in a street of Adjame in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. VOA

When Moustapha Dieng came down with stomach pains one day last month he did the sensible thing and went to a doctor in his hometown of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso’s capital, Africa.

The doctor prescribed a malaria treatment but the medicine cost too much for Dieng, a 30-year-old tailor, so he went to an unlicensed street vendor for pills on the cheap.

“It was too expensive at the pharmacy. I was forced to buy street drugs as they are less expensive,” he said. Within days he was hospitalized — sickened by the very drugs that were supposed to cure him.

Africa
Able Ekissi, an inspector at the health ministry, told Reuters the seized goods. Pixabay

Tens of thousands of people in Africa die each year because of fake and counterfeit medication, an E.U.-funded report released on Tuesday said. The drugs are mainly made in China but also in India, Paraguay, Pakistan and the United Kingdom.

Almost half the fake and low-quality medicines reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) between 2013 and 2017 were found to be in sub-Saharan Africa, said the report, also backed by Interpol and the Institute for Security Studies.

“Counterfeiters prey on poorer countries more than their richer counterparts, with up to 30 times greater penetration of fakes in the supply chain,” said the report.

Substandard or fake anti-malarials cause the deaths of between 64,000 and 158,000 people per year in sub-Saharan Africa, the report said.

Africa
Opiates have some of the most cases of addiction due to their accessibility and intense ‘high’ – mostly beginning from something as simple as painkillers.

The counterfeit drug market is worth around $200 billion worldwide annually, WHO says, making it the most lucrative trade of illegally copied goods. Its impact has been devastating.

Nigeria said more than 80 children were killed in 2009 by a teething syrup tainted with a chemical normally used in engine coolant and blamed for causing kidney failure.

For Dieng, the cost can be measured in more than simple suffering. The night in hospital cost him more than double what he would have paid had he bought the drugs the doctor ordered.

“After taking those drugs, the provenance of which we don’t know, he came back with new symptoms … All this had aggravated his condition,” said nurse Jules Raesse, who treated Dieng when he stayed at the clinic last month.

Fake drugs also threaten a thriving pharmaceutical sector in several African countries.

Africa
Misuse of antibiotic drugs have lead to the threat of antimicrobial resistance, Pixabay

That has helped prompt Ivory Coast – where fake drugs were also sold openly – to crack down on the trade, estimated at $30 billion by Reuters last year.

Ivorian authorities said last month they had seized almost 400 tonnes of fake medicine over the past two years.

Able Ekissi, an inspector at the health ministry, told Reuters the seized goods, had they been sold to consumers, would have represented a loss to the legitimate pharmaceutical industry of more than $170 million.

“They are reputed to be cheaper, but at best they are ineffective and at worst toxic,” Abderrahmane Chakibi, Managing Director of French pharmaceutical firm Sanofi’s sub-Saharan Africa branch.

Also Read: Trump Presents Proposal To Lower the Price of Specific Drugs

But in Ivory Coast, many cannot afford to shop in pharmacies, which often only stock expensive drugs imported from France, rather than cheaper generics from places like India.

“When you have no means you are forced to go out onto the street,” said Barakissa Cherik, a pharmacist in Ivory Coast’s lagoon-side commercial capital Abidjan. (VOA)