Early Marriages and FGM Accelerating Maternal Death in Mandera County, Kenya.

7 March 2018

Guest Blog by Abdullahi Mohamed Abdinur, Health and Hunger Aid. 

Health and Hunger Aid (HhAid) is a non-governmental organization, free from political, clans, religion and ethnic divisions, works with thousands of youth in urban and rural areas throughout Northern Kenya. HhAid strives to create a future where communities are able to facilitate their own development. HhAid works in program areas of Sexual and Reproductive and right, Food security, Water and Sanitation as well as HIV/AIDS awareness/mitigation.

Maternal Mortality in Mandera County in northern kenya remains the leading cause of death among the women. This is caused by the long distances that they have to walk to access medical care, early marriages and cultural rites like Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

According to UNFPA representative in kenya, Siddharth Charttejee, “the statics show more women die in childbirth in Mandera than anywhere else in the world with about 3,795 of every 100,000 women dying during childbirth’.

Female genital cutting, also called female circumcision and female genital mutilation, involves cutting some part of the clitoris or labia for non- therapeutic reasons, usually as part of a rite of passage into adolescence. Its practice by some ethnic groups in Kenya as well as in other east Africa countries and is motivated by beliefs about what is considered proper sexual behaviour for women and what is necessary to prepare them for marriage (WHO, 2014b). However, the practice is widely acknowledged as a violation of children’s and women’s rights, and it has the potential to cause serious medical complications. In 2011, Kenya passed a law – the prohibition of female Genital Mutilation Act 2011 – that banned female genital mutilation nationwide. Under this law, it is illegal to practice FGC in Kenya or to take someone abroad for FGC.

Estimates by WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA, the World Bank and the United Nations Population Division   reveal that most of the high-FGM- prevalence countries also have high maternal mortality ratios and high numbers of maternal death.

Mandera county is inhabited by ethnic Somalis. According to the Kenya Demographic Health Survey report from 2014, the FGM rate among women of ethnic Somalis age between 15-49 years stands at 94%.

Health and hunger Aid (Hhaid) steps in the fight against FGM among the pastoralist community includes:-

Raising awareness

According to Kenya demographic health survey report (KDHS,2014), 99.6% adults of the ethnic Somalis living in Kenya have heard of Female Genital mutilation, but many of them are not aware of the “cutting season” and the number of girls that are at risk. The most important steps in the fight against FGM, is raising awareness of the problem, HHAID does this by distributing material with images and messages on the effect of FGM and through the local radio Stations. We also contribute our voice on the conversation using #EndFGM.

Community outreach

Hhaid partners with local religious leaders, community leaders, youth and women in Mandera, in the fight against FGM, by offering support and advice through sessions at schools, community centres. We also train male volunteer peer supporters to deliver awareness-raising sessions in male-only environment. Training of female FGM peer supporters, to provide emotional and practical support that enable women to seek help of their FGM-related health issues and wok alongside social workers to refer women to the appropriate services for help and advice.

Hhaid also works on mainstreaming FGM into health workers training programmes, mobilize health workers in support of FGM prevention and care, and empower health providers to serve as role-models, counsellors and advocates in the effort to end FGM.

To undertake this it requires resources such as finance.

Join us in our mission to end female genital mutilation in northern Kenya including Mandera.