Genital lesions complicating female genital cutting in infancy: a hospital-based study in south-east Nigeria.

Ann Trop Paediatr. 2007 Dec;27(4):285-90.

Genital lesions complicating female genital cutting in infancy: a hospital-based study in south-east Nigeria.

Ekenze SO, Ezegwui HU, Adiri CO.

Paediatric Surgical Unit, Department of Surgery, Federal Medical Centre, Owerri, Nigeria.


BACKGROUND: Despite the global outcry against female genital cutting (FGC), the practice continues in many African communities. The morbidity of this practice on the girl child deserves more attention.

OBJECTIVE: To determine the genital lesions complicating childhood FGC and the underlying factors that sustain this practice among the Igbos in south-east Nigeria.

METHODS: Prospective evaluation of girls with genital complications of FGC between January 2003 and June 2005 at the Federal Medical Centre, Owerri, south-east Nigeria. The girls’ mothers were interviewed at presentation and subsequent visits to determine their perception and attitudes towards FGC.

RESULTS: The average age at presentation was 3.5 years (range 1-5) and the genital cutting procedures were performed 8-90 days after birth. The procedure was undertaken by traditional practitioners in 14 (66.7%) girls and by nurses in 7 (33.3%) girls. Twelve girls (57.1%) had type I genital cutting and nine (42.9%) type II. Inclusion clitoral dermoid cyst and labial fusion were the complications in 13 (61.9%) and eight (38.1%), respectively. Treatment involved complete excision of the cysts and operative division of the labial fusion. Post-operative complications were wound infection (5) and labial adhesion (2). With duration of admission ranging from 3 to 5 days, the average cost of managing each child was $120. Of the girls’ mothers, 15 (71.4%) had been educated to secondary level and 17 (80.1%) were aware of the campaign against FGC. Regrettably, all the mothers had genital cutting themselves during childhood and 13 (61.9%) stated that they would like to perpetuate the practice for socio-cultural reasons. Despite this, they all volunteered that FGC is enforced by the child’s paternal relations.

CONCLUSION: Childhood FGC contributes to appreciable morbidity among girls, a large proportion of whom are not managed in a hospital setting. The cost of managing these complications can be enormous, especially in low-resource settings. Girl child education to tertiary level and the involvement of traditional rulers and local decision-makers in the campaign against FGC might help to eradicate the practice.

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