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    096581

    Tradition of harm.

    POPULI. 1994 May; 21(5):4-5.

    The May 1994 meeting of the 187-member World Health Assembly in Geneva revealed some new and important findings on female genital mutilation, WHO targets, life expectancy and identification of 6 major problem areas. A WHO report stated that worldwide female genital mutilation affects around 85-114 million girls. It was reported that figures were unavailable on the sickness and death attributed to this practice, but estimates are considered to be high. The practice involves partial or total removal of the clitoris, cutting or removal of the labia, and reducing the vaginal opening. The practice reflects acute discrimination against women, tremendous impact on female adult life, and an immediate danger to a child. Health, well-being, and human rights are at stake. The cultural practice is engaged in by all major religions as a way of making women acceptable to their communities and prospective husbands. There is ignorance of the link between female genital mutilations and adult pain, infections, obstructed labor, and other health complications. Discretion and tact are needed in effecting social changes to eliminate this practice. The Assembly considered setting a worldwide target of 60 years for life expectancy. This could be achieved by halving maternal mortality, making available essential drugs and medicines to 85% of the world population, eradication of polio, and reducing considerably the incidence of measles and leprosy. Industrialized countries have a life expectancy of about 75 years, but in many African countries it is less than 50 years. Other problems were identified as HIV infection of 5000 people daily, the threat of malaria to about 40% of the world population, the annual deaths of 3 million people from tuberculosis (8 million contract the disease yearly), the deaths from heart attacks (12 million) and cancer (5 million), the more than 1 million cases of cholera reported since 1991, and the 0.5 million adult female deaths and 3 million infant deaths from preventable pregnancy-related causes. Solutions involved promoting condom use among sexually active adults, restricting high-fat American-style diets in developing countries, and increasing information and services for prevention of pregnancies which are too early, too closely spaced, too late, and too frequent.
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