UN, Nigeria launches new scheme to stop female genital mutilation
Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and Under Secretary-General of the United Nations, Michel Sidibé, yesterday challenged the government of President Muhammad Buhari to work assiduously towards reducing the number of Nigerian children born with Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV)/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).
Estimates say about 58,000 babies are born yearly in Nigeria.
Sidibe was in Nigeria on a three-day visit, also asked Nigeria to commence local production of antiretroviral drugs (ART). He said this would ease the cost and technical hitches associated with importing the drug from India and other places where it is currently produced. The UNAIDS chief says it would ensure greater access for a larger number of persons.
He spoke at a meeting with the management of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) in Abuja, where he harped on increasing testing and treatment to a larger number of Nigerians as a measure towards total winning the war against the ailment in the country.
Sidibe called for political will to produce local funding for treatment, noting that the United State’s President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) (the U.S. Government initiative to help save the lives of those suffering from HIV/AIDS), and other development partners funding windows were reducing drastically.
Also, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) have launched a major initiative to end female genital mutilation in Nigeria.
The national response to accelerate change and eliminate the practice is premised on based on information gathered in a study on the beliefs, knowledge, and practices of FGM/C that was conducted last year by UNICEF, UNFPA and partners in six high-prevalence states: Ebonyi, Ekiti, Imo, Osun, Oyo and Lagos.
The study highlight the need for sustained communication with communities and collaboration with the media to promoting the social change needed for FGM/C abandonment.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is considered as an extremely harmful traditional practice, documented in 28 countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. It comprises all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injuries to the female genital organs for the non-medical reason.
Statistics say it is widely practised in Nigeria, where an estimated
19.9 million Nigerian women have undergone the procedure.
As part of efforts to accelerate the abandonment of FGM, Wife of the
President, Mrs. Aisha Buhari, has launched the national response to eliminate the practice in Abuja.
Joined in the fresh efforts to eliminate the practise were state governors in states with high FGM prevalence, relevant ministries and the civil society organizations.
Sidibe said: “If there is any one country where I should be today to be able to talk about ending this epidemic it should be Nigeria, because if we fail to control the epidemic, it will be disastrous. If we fail to quicken the pace and reach people, we may not be able to end the epidemic.
We are in a defining moment. Nigeria has been able to demonstrate that result is possible, that we can see decline on new infections, that we can see decline on the number of persons who are dying from HIV/AIDS, that we can increase the number of people on treatment.
“If we do not demonstrate that we are capable to achieve mother to child transmission at the federal level, at the state and local government levels and at every single place, it will be difficult. From data in our books, 58, 000 babies are born with HIV/AIDS every year in Nigeria. We need to be able to make sure that we don’t have those babies born with HIV. We need to make sure that we have a new generation born without HIV. With that you would have been able to demonstrate, like I just said at all government levels….”