Guest blog by Amanda Epe.
Nestle Nutrition SMA held an educational event for midwife nurses at The Crowne Plaza, Royal Victoria on Tuesday 9th July titled: The Ins and Outs of Infant Care, Female Genital Mutilation. The aim of the seminar was to inform midwifes on the diverse issues of FGM and to impart knowledge and best practice of delivery to expectant mothers who have had the procedure. The learning outcomes were twofold in addition to awareness of FGM, the event opened to inform midwives of infant nutrition through Nestle products. Advice was given on the range of SMA formula milks on display with information on digestion of whey and casein proteins, as an alternative for mothers unable to breast feed. The nutritional section was rounded up by speaking about SMA Comfort milk which leads on to introduce the speaker Dr Comfort Momoh, Public Health Specialist and Midwife.
The seminar gave pointers to professionals in ways tackle FGM as a health and human rights issue for girls and women, firstly by being sensitive to the term mutilation, when taking assessments from women, as well as recognising the damage to the vulva area which varies from the Horn of Africa to West Africa as well as outside Africa e.g. in Kurdish Iraq communities. The midwives were made aware that 25% of women who have undergone FGM die from long term effects, resulting from urinary and vaginal infections as well as complications during childbirth.
So what can midwives do to care and comfort and safeguard children? It is important to be aware of policy and guidelines, for example the prison sentence has increased from 5 years to 14 for those prosecuted on FGM offences, informing people from practicing communities as many are not aware of the law. Equally many communities need to access to healthcare but have limitations because of language barriers, and it is vital to reach out to these communities. Health professionals should make aware the risks to HIV from the practice of FGM. Professionals have a duty to refer cases to support services for instance those who need psychological support, and network with teachers, school nurses and GPs.
As we approach peak time the summer holiday period where many girls are taken home to their country of origin we need an integrated approach to safeguard children. The department of education are valued as important stakeholders on safeguarding children; you may like to sign this petition.