Over five hundred teenage girls have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM) in West Pokot County since the Covid-19 pandemic started.
Yesterday it was revealed that a 12-year-old girl from Tapach Ward is fighting for her life at Kapenguria County Hospital from bleeding after undergoing the cut on June 6.
Ms. Domtillah Chesang, an FGM activist and director of Irep Foundation, expressed fears that FGM cases will keep surging the country because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The activist said that over one hundred FGM cases were reported in the last two weeks as parents take advantage of school closure to circumcise their girls.
She said that the county FGM prevalence is 70 percent higher than the national average of 21 percent.
“We had not realized mass cutting of girls for a long time because of sensitization and work done by different partners but this period of COVID-19 has shocked us,” she said.
The activist blamed the FGM cases spike on the confusion brought by the Covid-19 pandemic, saying that many schoolgirls are idle in the villages and many people are making a living out of the practice.
“There is misleading information in villages that Covid-19 will never end and people should cut their girls and marry them off. Many have lost hope and girls have waited for three months for schools to reopen. After FGM they get married because of the economic challenges,” she said.
“Poverty and hardship have forced them to cut their girls and marry them off to get dowry. In this community, Fgm is a requisite for early child marriage,” she said.
Speaking at Kamelei and Tapach in South Pokot Sub County during a seven-day caravan organized by the Anti-FGM Board, Irep Foundation, national government, World Vision and Action Aid, Chesang said that Tapach Ward is leading with over 300 FGM cases.
“We have been informed by the chiefs, Community mobilizers, and other members of the public,” said the activist, adding that some of the victims are at Kapenguria Protection Unit.
Anti FGM Board representative Nicholas Songok said that it was disgusting for parents to take advantage the Covid-19 pandemic to circumcise their girls.
“They should understand the dangers of FGM. Girls over bleed and they can die and others get complications during delivery. We must end FGM by 2022,” he said
Tapach Assistant County commissioner Ibrahim Bokee who warned FGM perpetrators especially in Kamelei, Stonu and Kapushen villages.
He said the FGM is being conducted in the bush at night, especially at Sawa Forest.