It is estimated that 3 million girls are mutilated annually. Of that number, 25 percent are between the ages of birth to 3 years. Sadly, the mortality rate of this age group is 10-15 percent. That translates to 75,000 to 100,000 babies die each year due to this horrible practice.
Further, there are other causes of death and dangers of FGM that occur later in the life of the victim. We will discuss the long term effects of FGM in a later article.
No matter the age of the victim, there are two major causes of death that occur at the time of the cutting—hemorrhage (blood loss) and infection.
There is no knowledge of how to prevent excessive bleeding or how to stop the bleeding when it occurs because the cuttings are performed by non-medical persons. Frequently the only efforts toward hemostasis is applying dirty linens or natural elements such as leaves. These misguided attempts are clearly ineffective and can result in severe blood loss and death.
The survivors’ stories that we hear all seem to have a central theme: “I was left bleeding and lying on a mat. I remember that I bled so much that the clot formed by the blood dripping down my leg left me stuck to the mat”.
The other cause of death that occurs immediately after the cutting is infection. This is due to the lack of sterility during the cutting procedure and immediately afterwards. Those who perform this deplorable act are not aware that when the body suffers an insult of this magnitude and wounds are left open and exposed to unsterile instruments (rusty, dirty razor blades or scissors) and other materials (soiled linens, leaves, etc.), there is inevitable infection. Since there are no antibiotics available to fight the infection, the victim’s immune system is all that’s left to save her. Obviously, this may not always be adequate and the child becomes septic and dies in septic shock.
There are many other dangers of FGM and complications of FGM that we will address in future blogs. We will also address the social consequences of FGM and social effects of FGM.