Tackling Female Genital Mutilation In Developing Countries

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) refers to the practice of the partial or complete removal of external female genitalia. There are four types of FGM and all of them are conducted for non-medical reasons, but is usually done for social, cultural or religious reasons. FGM has no health benefits what so ever; instead girls and women who have undergone FGM usually suffer from long-term health problems,including serious bleeding, infection, infertility and even death. It is usually practiced in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia; however, it has also been practiced in Australia, Europe, Latin America, New Zealand and North America.

Girls and women who have undergone FGM are usually under the age of 15 and it is usually conducted against the girl’s well and consent. It is estimated that more than 200 million women and girls are affected by FGM and it is practiced in around 30 countries. Traditional practitioners who have no real medical training usually conduct FGM procedures and the equipment and tools used are usually unsafe and anesthetics are normally not used.

The practice of FGM has decreased throughout years and much more people are against the practice, as international originations and NGO’s have brought more awareness to the issue. Despite this fact, around three million girls living in Africa are still at risk of FGM and it is estimated that 30 million girls and women are expected to face FGM in the next decade. Tackling FGM requires more than just giving communities or victims aid and money, as multiple reports on FGM show that in order to achieve a long-term goal of preventing FGM, communities that practice this must change their attitude and mentality towards FGM, as it is apparent that it has become somewhat of a social norm in many communities in developing nations.

It is evident that people’s economic and social status, community, age, and education are factors that contribute towards support for FGM. For example, AUNICEF report on FGM shows that younger women are less likely to not support FGM, as oppose to older women who are more likely in support of the practice, as the support for FGM from women aged 15 to 19 is 34% in Egypt, compared to 59% of women aged 45 to 49. The support for FGM among women is higher in poorer households compared to women who come from richer households. For example, the same UNICEF report shows that nearly 80% of women in poorer household support FGM in Somalia, whereas fewer than 50% of women who come from richer households support FGM in Somalia. In addition, girls and women with no education are significantly more likely to support FGM. The report estimated that the support among women with no education in Sierra Leone is around 85%, as oppose to under 40% of women with secondary or higher education that supports FGM in Sierra Leone.

Furthermore, it is apparent that in areas where FGM is less prevalent the more people don’t support it, whereas in areas with higher prevalence there appears to be more support. For example, the previous UNICEF report used shows that around 90% of women don’t support FGM in Ghana, but it is estimated that around 4% of women aged 15-49 have undergone FGM and only 1% for girls aged 0-15 have also undergone FGM in Ghana. Whereas, in Mali around 75% of women support FGM and the prevalence rate for FGM in Mali among women aged 15-49 is nearly 90%.The reasons behind support for FGM among women is for social acceptance, despite the vast majority stating it has no benefits because in Guinea nearly 65% of women reported they support it for social acceptance. The majority of boys and men also stated there are no benefits, but for those who do support FGM, it is mainly for social acceptance, as 42% of men in Sierra Leone also cited social acceptance for justification and support of FGM.

Therefore, the reality of FGM is much more complex and difficult to overcome, as after reading multiple different reports from NGO’s that conducted surveys and in-depth research on FGM in areas with the highest prevalence, it has become apparent that it is a social norm, which is difficult to change. In communities where it is conducted it is a socially upheld behavioral rule, meaning families and individuals support the practice because they believe that their group or society expects them to do so. The abandonment of subjecting girls and women to FGM requires a process of social change that results in new expectations on families.


Nigeria’s Humanitarian Crisis Is Being Ignored By Europe

(Originally posted on February 2, 2017, from Affinity Magazine)

Recently, the U.N. Assistant Secretary General and lead humanitarian coordinator for the Sahel, Toby Lanzer stated that European countries have made little efforts to address northern Nigeria’s humanitarian crisis, as the crisis continues to be ignored. Lanzer also stated that the situation facing the Lake Chad region is also in the EU’s broader interests, as he stated, “It’s not only that we want Nigeria to be stable for the prosperity of that country and its people,” he said. “Also, it’s in our broader interests at home.” Lanzer continues to state that; “this is a double win if you want. You don’t want the most populous country on the African continent becoming increasingly unstable; at the same time, you want people there prospering and not having to flee violence or seek opportunity elsewhere.”

Currently, it is estimated that in the Lake Chad region, which straddles the borders of Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad, there are more than 10 million people in desperate and urgent need of humanitarian assistance, which Lanzer stated was as bad as any he had seen in 20 years.

Northern Nigeria’s humanitarian crisis occurred after the uprising of the Islamic extremist group, Boko Haram. Since conflict and violence broke out in 2009, more than 20,000 people have been killed and over 2 million people have been displaced, while it is estimated that 1.8 million people remain internally displaced.

A major donor conference will be held in Oslo, in which Nigeria, Germany, and Norway will come together to discuss the current matters regarding Nigeria’s humanitarian crisis. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Borge Brende, stated, “this crisis has been largely overlooked. We are therefore seeking to mobilize greater international involvement and increased funding for humanitarian efforts to prevent the situation from deteriorating further.” This conference will be conducted on the 24th of February.

In December, the UN called on global donors for $1.5 billion, in order to provide the urgent humanitarian assistance needed for the crisis in the Lake Chad region,including $1.05 billion for Nigeria. The 2016 appeal was originally for $531 million and had only received 53% of its funding, as of this month.

“There are about 515,000 children who are at risk of starvation right now, so step up, Netherlands; step up, Denmark. You have got to show some solidarity now and it is in your interests to do so.” Said Lanzer.

Aid Agencies Accused Of Profiting From Borno Crisis

(Originally posted on January 15, 2017, from Affinity Magazine)

The Governor of Nigeria’s north-eastern Borno state, Kashim Shettima, accused aid agencies of profiting off of the Borno crisis and not distributing the money where it is needed.

The Borno crisis is the result of a terrorist group called Boko Haram, who is perpetrating violence upon civilians, which has caused widespread displacement and a growing humanitarian crisis in Nigeria. This has resulted in up to 2.1 million fleeing their homes and according to UNOCHA more than 4.8 million people are now in urgent need of food assistance and 5.1 are believed to suffer from severe food shortages if not helped by the humanitarian community in 2017.

The Governor accused aid agencies such as the UN children’s fund and UNICEF of profiting from money that is supposed to go towards helping those fleeing Boko Haram’s Islamic uprising. Shettima stated that only eight of 126 registered agencies were achieving “good work”, including the WFP, UN Population Fund, the Red Cross, the International Origination for Migration, the Norwegian Refugee Council and the Danish Refugee Council.

The Governor made these accusations recently to MPs and journalists at the state legislature in Borno’s main city of Maiduguri. He stated, “people that are really ready to work are very much welcome here. But people that are here only to use us to make money may as well leave.” Shettima also stated that people were profiting “from the agony of our people.”

The Governor argued that the UN are wasting funds on bullet-proof vehicles. He stated, “We hardly know what the UN agencies are doing.” He said. “We only see them in some white flashy bullet-proof jeeps; apart from that, we hardly see their visible impact.” However, the UN have a reason for their use of expensive vehicles, as last year a UN convoy returning from a camp in rural Borno was attacked by Boko Haram fighters, in which everyone survived due to the safety and security of the vehicles.

UNICEF ‘s latest report said the agency treated 160,000 children under five who were suffering from severe acute malnutrition in 2016. They helped to provide health care for 4.2 million in the war zone, brought safe clean water to 745,000 people and in addition, they provided more than 1 million people with hygiene kits and education. Aid agencies have accused the government of hiding the extent of the humanitarian crisis, while the government has accused aid agencies of exaggerating the humanitarian crisis.

Refugees And Migrants Are Falling Victim To Human Traffickers

(originally posted December 26, 2016, from Affinity Magazine)

The number of migrants and refugees has been increasing worldwide over the last few years, which has resulted in migrants and refugees being more vulnerable to human traffickers.

A UN study found that an influx of migrants and refugees has contributed to a rise in male and child refugees being abused by human traffickers.

While it is estimated that women and girls make up over 70% of all human trafficking victims because they tend to be trafficked for marriage or sexual slavery, the UN report found that men and boys tend to be exploited for forced labor, porters, soldiers and slaves. The number of male trafficking victims globally has increased from 13% in 2004 to 21% in 2014. In addition, it is also estimated that the percentage of trafficking victims placed into forced labor has risen from 32% in 2007 to 38% in 2014, and of that 38%, almost two-thirds were male.

The UNODC’S global report on trafficking reported that children account for nearly a third of all human trafficking victims worldwide. In regions such as sub-Saharan Africa, Central America, and the Caribbean, the number is increasing to around two-thirds.

Head of the UN Office on Drugs and crime, Yury Fedotov, highlights how those fleeing their countries from conflict are more vulnerable and prone to human trafficking, due to their devastating situation;

“The rapid increase in the number of Syrian victims of trafficking in persons following the start of the conflict there, for instance, seems to be one example of how these vulnerabilities play out.”

According to an EU report on human trafficking, which was conducted at the beginning of 2016, criminal gangs were the main perpetrators that were forcing and exploiting refugees and migrants into sex work and other forms of slavery. The report estimated that around 96,000 unaccompanied children claimed asylum in Europe in 2015, which is around one-fifth of the total number of child refugees in Europe. However, the EU police agency reported in early 2016 that around 10,000 of unaccompanied child refugees and migrants went missing since arriving in Europe. During this time, around 4,700 child refugees had been missing, according to German authorities

It was estimated that Human smugglers have taken advantage of hundreds of vulnerable refugees, in order to make a profit by exploiting refugee’s misery. Last year it was reported that human smugglers accumulated a record profit between £2bn and £4bn ($3bn-$6bn.) Many refugees have little knowledge about asylum, therefore they are more likely to seek help from human smugglers, which is why human smugglers made such a large profit off of refugees last year.

calais.jpgImage of Calais Jungle camp via Getty Images

The Calais Jungle camp is a refugee camp in Calais, France, and is a prime example of the horrible conditions that some refugees have to endure, and how these refugees are vulnerable to human traffickers. The camp consists of disgusting living conditions, very basic shelter, inadequate hygiene, and little personal security. The estimated number of refugees living in the camp varies, as an operation to clear the camp has taken place since October 2016. It is currently estimated that roughly 6,000 people have been living there since the dismantling of the camp. Many of these refugees have fallen victim to human trafficking and young girls are at high risk of sexual exploitation.

The US Department of State uploaded ’15 Ways You Can Help Fight Human Trafficking’ on their website, in order for you to become more informed on the issue and what you can do to help tackle it. Donating to NGO’s can also provide refugees with safer living situations that will reduce the risk of sexual exploitation and other forms of slavery. Donating to NGO’s such as UNICEF, Oxfam, Rescue.org, Refugee Action and much more can help improve the life’s of refugees while tackling human trafficking.