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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Medics drive to highlight mutilation risks posed by illegal op

June 28, 2009 A DANGEROUS and illegal medical procedure which is carried out on young girls has become the focus of a poster campaign. Health and social care bosses are taking steps to tackle the issue of female genital mutilation, a practice which can cause life-threatening bleeding, psychological damage and problems during pregnancy and childbirth. The procedure, which may be carried out for cultural or religious reasons, is normally performed on young girls by older women in some African and Asian communities. Medics in Derby are seeing an average of about six women a year who are suffering from complications as a result of the practice. They say that, of the patients they have seen, none had the procedure recently and all were operated on abroad. An on-going poster campaign, run by NHS Derby City, in partnership with other organisations, is under way to educate Derby's growing migrant population of the risks and, hopefully, prevent any new cases. Victor Chilaka, a gynaecologist at Derby City General Hospital, has treated a number of patients who have had complications as a result of the procedure. He said: "I don't think it's fair to wait for it to happen before we do something." Posters have been put up in Derby's GP surgeries and hospitals warning that the practice is illegal and can lead to serious complications. k3ywe4c9px And educational sessions have been carried out to alert health professionals. The campaign is aimed at Derby's growing migrant population. Between 2002 and 2007, approximately 13,000 new migrants moved to the city, including 1,430 black Africans and 4,940 Asians. About 13% of people in Derby were born outside the UK, an increase of 8.5% since 2001. Mr Chilaka said: "We've seen a progressive increase in the number of people presenting with genital mutilation." The majority of girls given the procedure are aged between four and 10 and are from Africa, the Middle East and South and South-east Asia. In some countries, such as Egypt, Somalia and Sudan, the practice is carried out on 98% of girls. But in others, such as Nigeria, Kenya and Senegal, it is much lower – between 20% and 50%. In the UK, it is illegal to carry out the practice and take a child abroad to undergo it. Despite this, about 6,500 girls in the UK are thought to be at risk.