Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) On Decline In Senegal

http://players.brightcove.net/665003303001/SJg0bzqkZ_default/index.html?videoId=5166644786001

In the West African nation of  Senegal, the prevalence of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) among younger women is trending downwards.

Senegal Map
Senegal Map

According to a report from the English and Wales based Charity 28 Too Many quoting data released in 2015 from the Agence Nationale de la Statistique et de la Demographique of Senegal and the Senega: Enquette Demographique et de Sante et de Sante 2015, the prevalence of FGM among women between the ages of 15 – 49 is 24.2%.

According to the group End FGM European Network FGM “comprises all procedures involving partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons as defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO).”

FGM which is carried out by traditional health practitioners and herbalists or community elders in Senegal is done on girls before they reach the age of 10 and around two thirds about 67.6% by the age of 5, according to the data used.

An emergency-room doctor in the U.S. Midwest has been arrested and charged with performing female genital mutilation on girls between the ages of 6 and 8, in the first criminal case brought under a 1996 law that outlawed the practice. Jumana Nagarwala, a 44-year-old doctor at a hospital in Detroit, Michigan, is accused of performing genital mutilation on young girls as far back as 2005, according to a criminal complaint released Thursday. The U.S. Department of Justice said she
Ceremony in Senegal Announcing End to FGM

According to data, 50% of women between the ages of 15 – 49 were “cut, flesh removed.”

In the south of the country, FGM is widely carried out and accounts for 76.9% and about 6.9% in central Senegal.

Citing the prevalence of FGM across the West African nation, the data used notes that among various ethnic groups  “…the highest practicing group include the Mandigue 71.1%, Sonike 60.9%, Poular 50.7% and Diola 47.9%. The lowest prevalences are found among the Wolofs 1.3% and the Serers 1.1% citing low sample sizes. FGM prevalences among Animists is 44.8%, among Muslims 25% and 7.8% among Christians. 14.4% of women and 15.7% of men believe that FGM is a religious requirement.”

The practice of FGM shows a decline in women between the ages of 15-49 now at 24.2% compared to 28.2 in 2005 in Senegal. Data further shows a decline of the practice among younger women.

Legislation was passed in 1999 by the Senegalese Government which specifically sanctioned the practice of FGM.

International Practice of FGM

FGM In Africa
FGM In Africa

The United Nations says that FGM is practiced in various communities in the following African Countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda and Zambia.

In some western countries, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United States and the United Kingdom, it is reported that FGM is practiced among diaspora populations from places where the practice is common done.

However, there is an increase  effort to fight and eliminate the practice in Africa and Western countries including the formulation and enforcement of stringent legislation.

In April, 2017, the Voice of America reported that  “An emergency-room doctor in the U.S. Midwest has been arrested and charged with performing female genital mutilation on girls between the ages of 6 and 8, in the first criminal case brought under a 1996 law that outlawed the practice. Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, a 44-year-old doctor at a hospital in Detroit, Michigan, is accused of performing genital mutilation on young girls as far back as 2005, according to a criminal complaint released … The U.S. Department of Justice said she “performed horrifying acts of brutality on the most vulnerable victims.”

US-DOJ LOGO
US Department of Justice

The US Government says it considers FGM a “…serious human rights abuse, and a form of gender based violence and child abuse…”

Criminal consequences of performing or assisting in FGM  against US law is 5 years in jail and fines or both and may have serious immigration consequences for immigrants who are convicted.

Effects of FGM

Some of the most common problems associated with the practice of FGM include:

  • Severe bleeding, pain and shock which sometimes lead to death
  • Infection, which sometimes lead to death
  • Urination and menstrual obstruction
  • Increased risk of urinary tract infections and HIV
  • Mental health problems, including PTSD
  • Sexual dysfunction, including dyspareunia
  • Complications in pregnancy and childbirth, which sometimes lead to death

Videos courtesy of Al Jazeera

By Emmanuel Abalo 

West African Journal Magazine

Sierra Leoneans Return To Give Back To Their Communities

After living in the United States for over a decade, Usifu Bangura returned to Sierra Leone to reunite with his family and to do his bit in rebuilding a country still recovering from civil war.

Usifu launched a project to improve access to clean water for people in Kambia, the village where he found his mother after tracing the process of his adoption.

Republic-of-Sierra-Leone
Map of Sierra Leone

Using Hippo Water Rollers or drums that are designed to roll over different types of terrain, residents can now transport up to 90 litres of water per trip.

I decided to come back to my home country to see my family after fourteen years as well as to bring any kind of humanitarian relief that I can.

“I decided to come back to my home country to see my family after fourteen years as well as to bring any kind of humanitarian relief that I can, specifically to the use of hippo rollers, he said”

Usifu gets the tanks from South Africa and has rallied donors to help fund his initiative.
Sierra Leone, ranks among the bottom of the U.N. Human Development Index, and according to WaterAid, third of the population does not have access to safe water.

His Bangura Project has also introduced water filters. He has also been holding discussions with residents to find out more about pressing needs of the community.

They are also been holding discussions with residents to find out more about pressing needs of the community.

“ It reduce child labor and that is very very great,in those days when we do not have it, actually when we want to send our children they cannot go and they are not happy because — They enjoy this roller,” said Kambia resident, Chernor A. Mansaray.

Usifu’s mother, Fatou Sankoh gave him up for adoption in 2004 after Sierra Leone’s decade-long civil war that ended in 2002. His father had been killed and his mother could not afford to raise him and his siblings.

He was in the country for 6 months this year before returning to the states.

Usifo is working on partnering with the government and local organizations on a larger scale to develop community run projects to improve clean water supply in rural parts of the country.

Reuters

Red Cross Admits Millions Missing in Donor Funds For Ebola; Blames Corruption in West Africa

Philadelphia, PA USA

The Geneva based Red Cross Federation says aid money amounting to over $8 million USD in Ebola assistance cannot be accounted due to fraud and corruption in West Africa.

Ebola Map Guinea Liberia_Sierra Leone_2014
Ebola Map of Guinea-Liberia-West Africa

In a rather stunning admission to the BBC on Friday, the global humanitarian organization says it conducted a financial audit and discovered that about $2.7 million USD disappeared in what was referred to as ‘fraudulently overpriced supplies, or salaries for non-existent aid workers of the local Red Cross office in Liberia.

Corrupt Red Cross staff in Sierra Leone reportedly colluded with local bank employees to illegally siphon off about $2 million USD while fake custom bills in Guinea led to the loss of about $1 million dollars.

The Red Cross says it regrets the financial loss of aid money and has instituted stricter financial controls to avoid a repeat. Red Cross staff involved will be held to account, the organization said.

In March, 2016, police in Liberia closed the local Red Cross office following dismissal of the entire Board of Directors, Secretary General and Head of Program by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. An investigation by Liberian authorities revealed that donor funds amount to $1.8 million dollars were missing and unaccounted for.

Ebola Workers
Ebola Workers

At the time, Reuters quoted a spokesperson for the the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in Switzerland as saying it had undertaken an audit of the Liberian member organization in 2015 and “…we found some irregularities and that led to an investigation.”

Ebola-Guinea
Ebola Awareness in Guinea

In an investigative report entitled, Lost on the Ebola Money Trail, published in 2015 on the Humanopsphere website, science journalist Amy Maxmen wrote that “…Far more than $3 million in foreign aid contributions have been donated in support of the Ebola response and much of it appears to have never reached the intended recipients in Sierra Leone…”  

According to Ms. Maxmen, the United Nation’s online financial tracker from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs puts Ebola donations to West Africa at $3.3 billion. According to this source, the US government donated 1.58 billion. 

Health_Ebola
Ebola Health Workers

Beginning in March, 2014, the West African countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone experienced the largest devastation of the Ebola epidemic. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 11,300 persons died before the outbreak was deemed over in March, 2016.

About 4,800 of the Ebola casualty were recorded in Liberia.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) denotes Symptoms of Ebola to include: 

 

Fever

Severe headache

Muscle pain

Weakness

Fatigue

Diarrhea

Vomiting

Abdominal (stomach) pain

Unexplained hemorrhage (bleeding or bruising)

EBOLA-virus
Ebola Virus

Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to Ebola, but the average is 8 to 10 days. Recovery from Ebola depends on good supportive clinical care and the patient’s immune response. People who recover from Ebola infection develop antibodies that last for at least 10 years.

No one has been prosecuted for the disappearance of Ebola donor funds in Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone.

By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal Magazine

 

Sierra Leone Mudslide Exposes Peril of Freetown’s Sprawl

Augustine Deen, a 31-year-old officer with the Sierra Leone Police Force, was on night duty at his post in Freetown, counting down the hours, when disaster struck.

Political Map of Sierra Leone
Political Map of Sierra Leone

In the early morning of August 14, a major mudslide hit Mount Sugarloaf, which overlooks the capital, slicing it in two. The collapse killed 400 people, with hundreds more still missing, and left an estimated 3,000 homeless.

Corpses floated in the floodwaters, while some families were forced to dig for the bodies of their loved ones under the rubble. Deen’s wife and six children back home in the Pentagon New Site slum on the mountain slopes survived, but his four brothers, sister-in-law and his nephew were killed.

Home to a little over 1 million people, according to a 2015 census, Freetown grew at the turn of the century as citizens in rural areas fled a decade-long civil war that ended in 2002.

The city was originally designed to house about 300,000 people, and it’s now struggling to meet basic needs for housing, electricity, sewage and water, said Jamie Hitchen, a policy researcher at the London-based Africa Research Institute.

Homes are being built in areas identified as “at risk,” and despite the creation of an European Union-funded Freetown Development Plan in 2014, city planning has been given little priority, he added.

FILE - A World Food Program tent is seen at an internally displaced persons camp in Regent, Sierra Leone, Aug. 21, 2017.

FILE – A World Food Program tent is seen at an internally displaced persons camp in Regent, Sierra Leone, Aug. 21, 2017.

“So far the government’s response to annual floods has been superficial and short-term,” Hitchen told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “Urban management problems are one of the major causes, along with deforestation and climate change.”

Freetown, initially designed by colonial-era British administrators, has been plagued by heavy rains and flooding yearly since 2008.

Its many slums and informal settlements are built high on mountain slopes, leaving tens of thousands of inhabitants vulnerable to death and displacement when the rains come.

Builders have encroached into protected forest areas on the hills behind the city, causing soil erosion — a phenomenon that contributed to the August landslide.

Officials at Freetown City Council said there are laws to prevent illegal construction, but these are often flouted or permits obtained through bribery.

In 2014, the Sierra Leone Urban Research Center carried out an environmental assessment to map areas at risk of flooding, but the government did not act on it.

FILE - Victims of the August mudslide are gathered in a queue at an internally displaced persons camp in Regent, Sierra Leone, Aug. 21, 2017.

FILE – Victims of the August mudslide are gathered in a queue at an internally displaced persons camp in Regent, Sierra Leone, Aug. 21, 2017.

“Over the years, many people were displaced by crises, including the … civil war, so many people escaped to the city and built houses in areas where they shouldn’t,” said Cornelius Deveaux, deputy minister of information.

Cheap but risky

High levels of poverty, however, are putting slum communities at risk of disasters.

In a country where GDP per capita is $1,400 and 60 percent of people live on less than $1.25 a day, according to U.N. data, having a home is judged as more important than safety.

Parts of the Regent area where the August disaster happened remain at risk of further landslides and flooding, but many residents say they have nowhere else to go.

“The closer to the mountain you go, the cheaper [it is] to rent houses for your family,” said Salim Bangura, 38, who lives with his wife in Congo Town slum.

“Some of us don’t have electricity, but we need a roof over our head as we struggle to make ends meet,” said Bangura, who gets by peddling food and household goods.

He and his neighbors know that in a pre-election year, politicians may make promises of mass housing to get them to move, but they have been offered nothing yet.

“This is the only life we know,” he said.

FILE - A nongovernmental organization distributes meals to victims of August mudslide at the internally displaced persons camp in Regent, Sierra Leone, Aug. 19, 2017.

FILE – A nongovernmental organization distributes meals to victims of August mudslide at the internally displaced persons camp in Regent, Sierra Leone, Aug. 19, 2017.

Camps to close

All eight members of Deen’s family are living in a small tent in Juba camp, alongside nearly 500 people who lost their homes in the mudslide.

Food, clothing and medicine come mostly from relief agencies including the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA), which has refurbished the only health center near the disaster zone.

Kim Eva Dickson, UNFPA head in Sierra Leone, said it was providing women and girls with antenatal care, ultrasound scans, mother and baby kits, and personal hygiene supplies.

Among disaster-hit communities living in temporary shelters, “the risks of unwanted pregnancies … sexually transmitted diseases and gender-based violence increases,” she said.

The government, meanwhile, has provided counseling for the bereaved still grieving over lost relatives and possessions.

Public resources were stretched thin by the 2014-16 Ebola outbreak that killed over 4,000 people in Sierra Leone. But the government is giving cash totaling about $171 to each family affected by the mudslide, with the last payment due in November.

It plans to close the two formal camps in mid-November, leaving their more than 2,000 residents with a choice of taking cash payments or moving to new homes being built for them.

Households that opt for cash will each get about $284 to help them rebuild their lives — enough to rent a one-bedroom apartment in downtown Freetown for a year.

FILE - A boy walks past a water supply point at an internally displaced persons camp in Regent, Sierra Leone. Aug. 21, 2017.

FILE – A boy walks past a water supply point at an internally displaced persons camp in Regent, Sierra Leone. Aug. 21, 2017.

The government has an agreement with local companies to construct 53 houses on the outskirts of the city for displaced families, and is in talks with other investors to build more homes for survivors.

This is separate from a long-term plan to create affordable housing for about 35,000 citizens in all, said Deveaux.

New homes shunned

Deen has heard the government is building free housing estates at 6 Mile on the outskirts of Freetown, but said there has been little information about the project.

Previous government action has made local people wary.

After floods in 2015, the government evicted 100 families living in Crab Town slum and moved them to a location about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Freetown.

But they were back in the capital a couple of months later, having rented out their new homes, said Hitchen.

The new housing stock was better than in the slums, but the village lacked basic amenities, work opportunities were few and people were cut off from their community networks.

“We don’t want to go to somewhere without knowing what we are getting into,” said Deen.

VOA

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