A strict coronavirus lockdown in Somalia has led to an increase in female genital mutilation (FGM) cases, according to Plan International, a girls’ rights group.
“We’ve seen a massive increase,” said Sadia Allin, Plan International’s head of mission in Somalia. “The lockdown is being seen as an opportune time for the procedure to be carried out in the home, with ample time for healing.”
Reportedly, circumcisers are going from house to house offering to cut girls who are confined to their homes.
Allin said nurses across the country had also reported a surge in requests from families wanting FGM to be carried out on their daughters while schools were closed.
Somalia has the highest rate of FGM in the world – about 98% of girls aged between five and 11 have been cut. The UN estimates that such procedures will be performed on at least 290,000 girls in the East African nation in 2020. A rise in cases is also linked to Ramadan, the traditional time for Somali girls to be cut.
Allin, who has two daughters, aged five and nine, said cutters had knocked on her door and asked if there were any girls to be circumcised.
Somalia has officially recorded almost 1,500 coronavirus cases and 57 deaths. However, the virus may have spread far more extensively through the war-torn country of 15.8 million. Medics and gravediggers have reported a surge of corona-like deaths in recent weeks, prompting fears that the real death toll could be many times higher than the official count.