International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation – Message of WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti

On 6 February, the international community comes together to mark the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

The theme this year is “Unleashing Youth Power: One Decade of Accelerating Actions for Zero Female Genital Mutilation by 2030”. It aims to mobilize all stakeholders, particularly young people, to successfully eliminate FGM in the next 10 years in line with the Sustainable Development Goals target 5.3.

The international community recognizes FGM as a human rights violation through several treaties. It has no health benefits and can result in significant health complications for the women and girls affected, as well as social consequences and an economic burden for health systems and society.

Globally, FGM is estimated to have been performed on more than 200 million girls and women alive today. More than three million girls are at risk each year, and this number is expected to increase to 4.6 million girls in 2030 unless we accelerate action to prevent this harmful practice. 

Eliminating FGM will require the full support of donors and decision-makers. To support the call for increased investment, at WHO, today we are launching an interactive FGM economic cost calculator. The tool visualizes the health and economic costs of FGM and the potential cost savings in implementing interventions to prevent it. The calculator is relevant to decision-makers, donors and communities, who can use its results to inform actions towards eliminating FGM.

In the African Region, FGM occurs in 30 countries. We have seen progress – for instance, in Burkina Faso, Kenya, Liberia and Togo, FGM has decreased among girls aged 15 to 19 years over the past 30 years. However, collectively we need to do more to protect girls, women and communities from the harms associated with FGM.

At WHO, we are working with Member States and partners to eliminate FGM by:

  • developing guidelines, tools, training, and policies for health workers to provide the highest quality health care, including counselling girls and women living with FGM, while also taking actions to prevent the practice;
  • generating knowledge about the causes and consequences of the practice and about how to prevent it; and
  • developing publications and advocacy tools efforts to end FGM.

Today, I appeal to decision-makers, policy-makers, programme planners, and donors to use the new WHO calculator to inform decisions and invest more to eliminate FGM within a generation.