Harmful practices and sexual violence

Female genital mutilation/cutting continues to be practiced in 27 out of the 46 Member States. In some countries more than 90% of females have undergone genital mutilation. It is estimated that about 100 million women and girls in Africa today have gone through some type of genital mutilation. In addition, the increase in domestic violence and sexual abuse against women and girl children in most countries is of serious concern. Children in difficult circumstances are particularly vulnerable. There is urgent need to establish effective interdisciplinary and gender-sensitive programmes for the prevention and reduction of these harmful practices and cater for the vulnerable children. It is also important to ensure that male circumcision, where practiced, is carried out under strict hygienic conditions and with individual blades.
Other harmful traditional practices include:
·        Childhood marriage and teenage pregnancy
·        Bad delivery practices
·        Nutritional taboos
·        Uvulectomy
·        Son’s preference
·        Gender inequality/Gender violence
·         Bad widowhood practices
Health services
The above-mentioned health problems are worsened by uneven or lack of access to health services, insufficient resources and poor performance of health systems. Almost all the countries have embarked on health sector reform. The main focus of the reform is on health financing, organization and management of health services and service delivery.
The needs to be addressed include the following
·        Introduction of the reproductive health concept in all countries through a multisectoral approach
·        Provision of comprehensive services that are good quality equitably accessible, affordable and appropriate to the needs of individuals, families and communities, especially, underserved groups;
·        Reorientation of planning processes for a more pragmatic and participatory approach to the identification of problems, need and interventions;
·        Removal of all forms of barriers to reproductive health, such as political, legal, socioeconomic, cultural, behavioural or gender-based barriers;
·        Improving the knowledge and skills of all people for the purpose of establishing responsible relationships and parenthood so as to enhance their ability to promote their own health;
·        Establishing an enabling environment for service providers;
·        Recognizing and supporting the roles of professional bodies;
·        Enhancing the institutional capacity of the national health system to adequately address reproductive health needs

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