Hope for FGM victims as surgery reverses side effects

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THERE is hope for women who have suffered Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Tanzania as surgery to restore function in theirremoved body parts is increasingly becoming common in Africa, including the neighbouring Kenya.

And, with no hope in sight to end FGM, the world over, as societies continue being hedged into harmful traditional beliefs to the extent of devising new methods, to ensure they perform the deviant act and evade the long arm of the law, surgery provides relief to those women who had no option as they were forced to undergo the painful experience.

The procedure offers relief to women whose reproductive health would have suffered a lot of side effects.

According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFP), immediate complications of FGM include severe pain, shock, haemorrhage, tetanus or infection, urine retention, ulceration of the genital region and injury to adjacent tissue, wound infection, urinary infection, fever, and septicemia.

On the other hand, longterm consequences comprise complications during childbirth, anaemia, the formation of cysts and abscesses, keloid scar formation, damage to the urethra resulting in urinary incontinence, dyspareunia (painful sexual intercourse), sexual dysfunction, hypersensitivity of the genital area and increased risk of HIV transmission, as well as psychological effects.

However, the surgery is aimed at mitigating long term effects and makes it easy for women to regain confidence and enjoy their marriages. Surgeons carrying out the procedure revealed that the operation aids to stop pain, help women regain sexual pleasure and restore their identity and femininity.

UN estimated in 2016 that, worldwide, 200 million women living in 30 countries, 27 African countries, Indonesia, Iraqi Kurdistan and Yemen have undergone the FGM procedures. According to the Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) of 2016, one in 10 women in Tanzania has been circumcised and the practice is most widespread in Manyara (81 per cent), Dodoma (68 per cent), Arusha (55 per cent), Singida (43 per cent) and Mara (38 per cent).

The technique to restore function in the cut female body parts was developed only a decade ago, pioneered by French urologist and surgeon Pierre Foldès, but in most African countries it is yet to be introduced.

In an interview with the Sunday News, Dr Sajjad Fazel, Doctor of Pharmacy at Sanitas Hospital, said the surgeries will be possible in Tanzania because they are conducted in normal theatres, only that the country lacks surgeons who are well equipped with the technical skills to carry them out.

Early this month, the US-based, nonprofit organisation Clitoraid conducted its first humanitarian mission in Nairobi, Kenya, offering clitoral restorative surgery to 45 FGM survivors. Dr Marci Bowers, Clitoraid head surgeon, trained 16 Kenyan doctors and referred the mission as the beacon of hope for the horn of Africa where millions of FGM victims reside.

Dr Bowers said, “The surgery has been questioned by many as some say you cannot restore the body part once it’s gone, it’s gone and there is nothing you can do, but after the years of practice in this field I can assure you that the surgery is possible,” she noted.

“As soon as women heard that such surgery was being offered in Nairobi, they crowded from early dawn outside and into the waiting rooms of Karen and Mama Lucy hospitals where the mission co-sponsored by Kenyan NGO Garana (Project Pink Plus) was taking place,” explains Nadine Gary, spokesperson for Clitoraid.

Ms Gary said they will be honoured to be invited to train surgeons in Tanzania where many patients have reached out to them. Other women from countries such as Nigeria and Sierra Leone, have written to Clitoraid several times begging us to come to their country.

“This proves that the surgery is really needed in Tanzania and other African countries, we hope that the mission in neighbouring Kenya brings hope to FGM survivors in Tanzania as well,” she told ‘Sunday News.’

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