2mn FGM cases may occur over next decade due to Covid-19: UN
Two million additional cases of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) may occur over the next decade as Covid-19 "shutters schools and disrupts programmes that help protect girls from this harmful practice", the Unicef warned.
The warning came in a joint statement by Unicef Executive Director Henrietta Fore and UNFPA Executive Director Natalia Kanem issued on Friday which also marked the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation.
"We must act now to stop this from happening," the joint statement said.
"Even before Covid-19 upended progress, the Sustainable Development Goals target of ending FGM by 2030 was an ambitious commitment.
"Far from dampening our ambition, however, the pandemic has sharpened our resolve to protect the 4 million girls and women who are at risk of FGM each year," it added.
Ending female genital mutilation requires collaboration among a wide group of stakeholders and funding, according to the two UN agencies.
"We must fund our efforts at a level equal to our commitment. Even in countries where female genital mutilation is already declining, progress needs to increase ten-fold to meet the global target of elimination by 2030," the joint statement said.
This will require some $2.4 billion over the next decade, which breaks down to less than $100 dollars, it noted.
"This is a very small price to pay for preserving a girl's bodily integrity, her health and her right to say no to violation.
"However, most of this money has yet to be raised, said the two female leaders," the statement added.
The agency chiefs also stressed the importance of girls' access to education, health care and livelihoods, and their protection by laws, policies and new social norms.
"The elimination of FGM and gender equality are interdependent, mutually reinforcing goals. Simply put, if gender equality were a reality, there would be no FGM.
"We know what works. We tolerate no excuses. We have had enough of violence against women and girls. It is time to unite around proven strategies, fund them adequately and act," the statement concluded.
According to figures by the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 200 million girls and women alive today have been victims of FGM in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia where the practice is still relevant.
FGM, recognised internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women, is mostly carried out on young girls between infancy and age 15.