Regional Report - Yemen

Government moves to end Female Genital Mutilation

The Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood (SCMC) in Yemen, a government body, has drawn up a national action plan to end the practice of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) in the country.

As a first step, the plan – the first of its kind in Yemen – aims to reduce FGM/C prevalence by 30% by 2012. According to an IRIN report in July the plan was yet to be presented to Cabinet for approval, but was discussed at a workshop on 24 June, with the 65 participants representing UN agencies, the government, donors and civil society.

According to a new, unpublished, study on FGM/C presented at the workshop, FGM/C is practised in five of Yemen’s 21 governorates, with prevalence rates of 97.3% in al- Hudeidah Governorate; 97.3% in Hadhramaut; 96.5% in al- Mahrah; 82.2% in Aden; and 45.5% in Sana’a.

Prepared jointly by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Sana’a University's Gender Development Research Centre (GDRSC) and the Yemeni Women’s Union, the study identified four types of FGM/C, as per the World Health Organisation classification. <>

The most common was Type 2 – partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora (excision) – found in 83% of the cases studied.

Type 1 – partial or total removal of the clitoris and/or the prepuce – represented 13% of cases.

A 1997 demographic survey found that 23% of girls and women had been subjected to FGM/C, including 69% in coastal areas; 15% in mountainous areas; and 5% in desert and highland areas.

New policies

According to the plan, the Health Ministry would introduce bylaws, codes of conduct and anti-FGM/C policies: all forms of FGM/C would be banned; FGM/C would be covered in the school curriculum; media and community leaders would spread anti- FGM/C messages; and religious leaders would disconnect FGM/C from religion.

Health professionals would take an oath not to practice FGM/C; adolescents and children would participate in spreading awareness of the dangers of FGM/C, and community leaders would discourage it. Media campaigns would be carried out in communities still practising FGM/C, and focal points would be established at governorate level.

Husniah al-Qaderi, executive director of GDRSC, said FGM/C was attributed to religious and cultural traditions in most cases. “But FGM/C was not mentioned in the holy Koran. They think FGM/C will ensure a woman’s chastity and keep her from perversion,” she told IRIN.

She said 99% of FGM/C cases were carried out 7-10 days after birth – the same for male circumcision – but that there were often health complications.

“FGM/C leads to bleeding as the genital organs contain many blood vessels. A lot of women said they had lost their daughters during circumcision. But deaths at home are not registered.”

In 2001 the Ministry of Health banned FGM/C from being carried out in private and public health facilities.

Urgent need for breastfeeding programme

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) office in Yemen has expressed concern over the decline in breastfeeding, which it says is likely to lead to higher rates of malnutrition and death among the under-fives.

Nassem Ur-Rehman, chief communications and information officer at UNICEF’s Sana’a office, said nearly half of Yemen's under-fives were malnourished: “The health of small children is bad and getting worse. A breastfeeding campaign is urgently needed.”

He said Yemen, along with Djibouti and Sudan, had the lowest rates of breastfeeding in the region.

Ur-Rehman said the main reasons why breastfeeding was not widespread was lack of family, social and government support; aggressive marketing by infant formula milk companies; and a lack of public breastfeeding facilities.

Yemen’s malnutrition rate among the under-fives is one of the highest in the world: stunting stands at 53.1%, wasting at 12.5% and underweight at 45.6%, according to the Ministry of Health.

UNICEF said the rate of “exclusive breastfeeding” (ensuring that the child is fed only on breast milk for the first six month’s of life) was 12%.

According to UNICEF's The State of the World's Children 2008 <>, the rate of “exclusive breastfeeding” in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) was 28%, making it 10 percentage points below the average for developing countries. The MENA region is also lagging behind sub-Saharan Africa, where current rates are 30-39%.

ate of upload: 29th September 2008

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