By Hannah Vanbenschoten

For Sara Stulac, a pediatric doctor from Rwanda, treating a young girl with a tumor the size of a cauliflower on her face was not what she expected her first experience with a patient to look like. In 2005, when the young girl came to Dr. Stulac, it was clear an oncologist was needed; unfortunately, Rwanda did not have one. The girl’s father had tried traditional healing remedies and local doctors, but the tumor grew to the point where Dr. Stulac needed to recruit satellite help from an American oncologist in order to save the girl’s life.

Besides the happy ending, which is a rarity, this is not an uncommon story in the developing world. The World Health Organization reports that approximately 55% of new cancer cases occur in the developing world, a figure that is projected to grow to 60% by 2020 and 70% by 2050. These high rates of chronic illnesses in the developing world is an ironic effect of relative success in preventing and treating infectious diseases such as Tuberculosis, Malaria, and HIV. As the prevalence of these transmissible diseases — ones that typically hinder the chances of child survival beyond age 5 — decreases, the likelihood of an individual developing a noncommunicable disease with a later onset grows drastically.

According to a review by the Harvard School of Public Health, “the increasing incidence of lung, breast, and colorectal cancer is largely the result of demographic lifestyle changes, including longer life expectancy and accelerated urbanization, which in turn leads to reproductive patterns and lifestyles associated with several forms of cancer.” Some of these lifestyle changes include tobacco use, high calorie intake, alcohol consumption, low prevalence of breastfeeding, and pregnancy at older ages. Not only do developing nations still suffer health problems typically associated with poverty, such as infections, undernutrition, and high maternal death rates, they now face a new issue of high rates of chronic illnesses.

There is an alarming lack of awareness within developing nations about the increasing presence of cancer. Screening procedures for early detection of cancer is often considered too expensive and difficult to implement in health clinics serving low income areas. An ethical dilemma surrounds detecting cancer in these areas exists as well, as some medical professionals would argue that there is little to no effective means for treating cancer, so why trouble a patient with early detection if their prognosis will be dim regardless. Experts also point out the ever present and pressing issue of communicable diseases in developing countries and question the merits of even addressing cancer at all in the face of other health concerns.

Though the treatment of cancer is a massive conundrum, even in middle to high income countries, the reality is that early detection of some forms of cancer, specifically those that primarily affect women, such as breast and cervical cancer, leads to a very high success rate using relatively cost effective procedures. According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Stage I breast cancer can be easily treated with surgery and/or radiation with a 98% success rate. Similarly, Stage 0 and I cervical cancer has a relatively high survival rate of 93%. In spite of these promising figures in the way of treatment, cultural resistance and stigmas prevent early detection and the provision of treatment in many developing areas. In some cultures, it is common for women with breast cancer to be considered of “diminished femininity.” On the same note, an immense lack of consideration for female reproductive health is a significant barrier to preventing and addressing cervical cancer.

Simple solutions are present to prevent and treat these types of cancers in poor nations. For example, doctors estimate that roughly 80% of liver cancers and 70% of cervical cancers could be prevented by immunizing against hepatitis B and human papillomavirus. Fortunately, some recent efforts have increased awareness and financial support for combating cancer in developing nations. A breakthrough in this front includes a $50 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to create the Alliance for Cervical Cancer Prevention. While this is a step in the right direction, a significantly larger focus on cancer in the developing world needs to be established in the global health community. Four-fifths of avoidable cancer deaths are in low- and middle-income countries. Targeted financial and knowledge based reform directly addressing cancer must be implemented in developing countries — it is no longer adequate to concentrate primarily on communicable disease alone.






Works Cited:


Frenk, Julio. “Cancer Is on the Rise in Developing Countries.” Harvard School of Public Health.                        Harvard School of Public Health, 15 Sept. 2009. Web. 27 Feb. 2016.


“Stages 0 & 1.” The National Breast Cancer Foundation. National Cancer Institute, n.d. Web. 27                      Feb. 2016.


“Worse than AIDS.” The Economist. The Economist Newspaper, 01 Mar. 2014. Web. 27 Feb.                       2016.

Polio-Endemic Pakistan

By Heba Ijaz

Since Nigeria was declared endemic-free last year, Pakistan has become one of two remaining countries where polio is still an endemic viral infection.

Poliomyelitis is a highly infectious disease caused by the poliovirus that primarily affects children. The virus spreads mainly through the fecal-oral route, although transmission through oral and nasal secretions can also occur. It resides mainly in the throat and intestines, and in certain cases, can enter the bloodstream to invade the brain and spinal cord, leading to paralysis. Contaminated water and food sources along with poor personal hygiene are significant contributors to polio transmission. Two types of vaccines are available today: Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) is a live attenuated version and Intravenous Polio Vaccine (IPV) is an inactivated version.

In 1974, the World Health Organization (WHO) implemented the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) in response to reports showing that less than 5% of the world’s children were immunized within the first year of birth against 6 preventable diseases, including polio. In Pakistan, routine immunizations against polio were made mandatory in 1978, although active steps to eliminate polio were not taken until much later. The Polio Eradication Initiative was launched in 1994 and, with the implementation of national immunization days, the approximate number of reported cases of wild polio dropped from 2500 to 156 per year within 4 years. This consistent downward trend showed hope for polio eradication soon. However, limited outreach to families in underserved and rural areas, reservations against all-male vaccination teams (and barriers for women’s involvement in vaccination campaigns), and rising misconceptions about OPV due to a severe lack of education caused increasing absence of and resistance to treatment. To make matters worse, the Guardian released an article in 2011 accusing the C.I.A. of organizing a vaccination program in Abbottabad, Pakistan to gather information. A senior Pakistani doctor, who was later arrested and imprisoned, was recruited to manage the drive. Since then, militant groups have banned local vaccination teams from entering certain tribal areas, campaigned incessantly to promote suspicion within the general population about these “intelligence-gathering” vaccination drives, and openly targeted health workers, causing many to abandon their jobs in fear of their own safety. Consequently, polio cases in Pakistan began to rise. In 2014, 306 polio cases were reported, the highest number in Pakistan in over a decade and the highest worldwide in that year.

Over the past couple of years, active measures have been taken to engage and empower local communities to eradicate polio. Community and religious leaders are encouraged to advise people to get vaccinated, advertisements are used to educate people about the effects of polio, and more women are hired as health workers as a means to establish trust with families. Ongoing military operations against militant insurgencies in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) have allowed vaccination teams to access areas that were once too dangerous to visit. Travel restrictions were placed by the WHO on Pakistanis who failed to provide proof of polio vaccinations upon request. Furthermore, in 2015, the federal government introduced injectable vaccines that would require only one dose to develop immunity (OPV required multiple doses). Although more expensive than OPV, it was launched with the hopes that it would be more effective in treating an additional 4 million children, bringing the country closer to its eradication goal. That same year, the provincial government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa went so far as to issue arrest warrants for parents and guardians who refused vaccinations for their children; they were released once they had signed a guarantee that they would allow their children to be vaccinated.  By the end of 2015, 54 cases of wild polio had been reported, and fewer are expected this year (2 cases have been reported as of February).

With the whole country now invested in eradicating polio and vaccines being administered to millions of infants each year, the finish line seems to be in sight. Looking back, it raises the question of why, despite almost no issues of donor funding, it has taken approximately 40 years to come this close to eradicating polio, a disease that has been preventable by vaccination for over half a century. As of last year, one in four deaths of children under 5 years was caused by vaccine-preventable diseases. In order to now address these horrifying occurrences more efficiently, the government needs to assess its shortcomings in responding to the polio endemic. Although using fear of arrest and travel restrictions may have engaged the public and resulted in an increase in demand for immunization, a better approach would be to implement effective public awareness and education campaigns to promote health and immunization in local communities. Programs in other countries, including now polio-free Nigeria, have shown time and again that community involvement at the local level (as well as the national level) is vital to disease eradication.
BBC Video on Pakistan’s ongoing battle with polio: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5-MVm3Itdk




Braun, B. S. (2014, May 20). CIA: Vaccination programs won’t be used as cover. AP Online. Retrieved 2016, from http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1A1-9c433236a74941b2b9a4e26235786e1d.html?refid=easy_hf


CDC Global Health – Polio. (2015). Retrieved February 27, 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/polio/


McGurk, T. (2015, March 3). Taliban Assassins Target Pakistan’s Polio Vaccinators. National Geographic. Retrieved from http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/03/150303-polio-pakistan-islamic-state-refugees-vaccination-health/


Obregón, R., Chitnis, K., Morry, C., Feek, W., Bates, J., Galway, M., & Ogden, E. (2009). Achieving polio eradication: A review of health communication evidence and lessons learned in India and Pakistan. Bulletin of the World Health Organization Bull World Health Org, 87(8), 624-630.


Shah, S. (2011). CIA organised fake vaccination drive to get Osama bin Laden’s family DNA. Retrieved February 27, 2016, from http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/jul/11/cia-fake-vaccinations-osama-bin-ladens-dna


UNICEF Pakistan. (2015, May 13). Pakistan Renews Commitment to Reduce Maternal and Child Mortality Ratio [Press release]. Retrieved from http://www.unicef.org/pakistan/media_9326.htm


World Health Organization. (2014, May 5). WHO statement on the meeting of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee concerning the international spread of wild poliovirus [Press release]. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/statements/2014/polio-20140505/en/


WHO Removes Nigeria from Polio-Endemic List. (2015). Retrieved February 27, 2016, from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2015/nigeria-polio/en/


By Sally Bohrer

In Africa, only three countries (Cape Verde, South Africa, and Tunisia) have legalized abortion. In the other fifty-one countries, abortion rights vary. None have completely outlawed abortion, as all African countries allow abortions to save the mother’s life, but most do not allow abortions in any other circumstances, even in the case of rape or incest. (For a full list of abortion rights by country, visit: http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/ng-interactive/2014/oct/01/-sp-abortion-rights-around-world-interactive).

In African countries where abortions are only allowed if the mother’s life is at risk, abortions are not nonexistent but actually just as prevalent (if not more prevalent) as countries like the United States where abortions are completely legal. However, in countries where abortion is not legalized, women must seek out illegal providers. These illegal abortions are not only dangerous to the mother’s health, but also have many social and economic effects that are just as costly.

Senegal is one of the African countries where abortion is allowed only in the case that it would save the mother’s life. Even though abortion is not legal, the abortion rate in Senegal is actually the same as that of the United States (17 per 1,000 in 2011) (www.guttmacher.org). However, in the United States, women rarely suffer from complications from abortion, because they are able to go to clean clinics or hospitals under the supervision of qualified doctors and nurses. In Senegal, all women must go to illegal providers, or take matters into their own hands, often with disastrous results.

The World Health Organization defines an unsafe abortion as  “a procedure for terminating a pregnancy performed by persons lacking the necessary skills or in an environment not in conformity with minimal medical standards, or both” (WHO).

In countries where abortion is not completely legalized, this is what women must turn to. Unsafe methods, which include drinking bleach or inserting sharp objects into the cervix, can result in complications including hemorrhages, sepsis, infertility, infection, and death (WHO). In 2012, 51,500 Senegalese women received an illegal abortion. Approximately 55% of those abortions resulted in complications. For the poor, this percentage of complications is even higher, with 73% of poor rural women and 59% of poor urban women suffering from complications of unsafe abortions (www.guttmacher.org).

When Senegalese women get an abortion, they are not only risking their life, but also their freedom. Abortion is a criminal offense, for which women can be imprisoned. In 2015, 19% of the Senegalese women in prison were charged with infanticide and 3% were charged with clandestine abortion (FIDH).

The effects of an unsafe abortion affect many more people than just the woman. Whether the woman dies from the procedure, is seriously impaired, or is sent to jail, she leaves behind a family who relies on her for childcare, housework, and income. In impoverished communities, this is especially important, because without their mother bringing in income or caring for them, her children will likely only suffer from more poverty.


Abortion Outcomes

So, what can be done?


The clear solution to the problem of unsafe abortions in Senegal is to legalize it. Today, Senegalese women who choose to receive an abortion are risking death, health complications, and imprisonment, as well as the well being of her family. If abortion were to be legalized in Senegal, clinics and hospitals could be built with the proper resources and training so that women would be able to get an abortion without risking their lives. In addition, these clinics can provide post abortion care, including education on family planning and contraception, so that future unwanted pregnancies and abortions can be prevented. The Guttmacher study also reported that in 2014, only 20% of married women used a modern method of contraception.  (www.guttmacher.org). Legal abortion clinics have the opportunity to have so many positive and wide-reaching effects. Women would not be dying and suffering as a result of unsafe abortions. Their children would not be suffering from the loss or impairment of their mother. More contraceptives would prevent unwanted pregnancies and also prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections. Giving women the right to an abortion is giving her not just the right to choose, but also the right to save her own life, and the potential to better her livelihood.




By Benjamin Castro

Condoms cannot cure Africa. They should not be at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention programs, nor should they be considered a top-priority.

These statements stand diametrically opposed to accepted conventional prevention strategies proposed by western nations. Many organizations, UNAids for instance, state that condoms should be at the vanguard of the continental struggle to prevent HIV/AIDS in Africa. Anything contrary to this statement is often labeled as ignorant, misguided, or a product of ultra-right wing radicalism, often religious. In a word, anti-scientific. However, Dr. Edward Green, who served as the director of  the AIDS Prevention Project at Harvard University as well as a member of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (amongst many other positions), would agree with those statements. He provocatively states that condom use, while managing marginal amounts of risk in preventing HIV/AIDS, does not at all address the risky behavior which ought be the focus of prevention strategies.

Green, most famously indicated this in his highly controversial Washington Post article Condoms, HIV-AIDS and Africa- The Pope Was Right. In this article, Green came to the defense of the previous Pope, Benedict XVI, who was criticized for saying that Africa, “cannot resolve [the AIDS epidemic] with the distribution of condoms. On the contrary, it increases the problem.” Now, given today’s social climate, most people denounce the statements of the religious due to the belief that religion and science are incompatible with one another. However, Green states that, “current empirical evidence supports him.” Citing multiple studies, “Reassessing HIV Prevention” to name one, Green says that a myriad of scientist will say that condoms cannot lead the charge against the infectious disease.

For instance, in nations such as Malawi it is estimated that two-thirds of the sexually active population are in the midst of an interconnected web of people with multiple sexual partners. This presents the obvious issue of somebody infected with HIV/AIDS engaging in risky behavior with multiple different people who, if they become infected, can then infect multiple others by themselves. This leaves the country with the evident problem of the exponential growth of the incidence of HIV/AIDS within this web. Now, addressing this issue using condoms was shown in the Malawi National Assembly to be an ineffective method of prevention due to the errors associated with the typical use of condoms (improper use, breakage, slips, etc.) What was much more needed, and much more effective, was the disbandment of plural intimate partners through community education.

Part of the difficulty with condom distribution in Africa is that an entire continent is treated as if it was only a small nation such as Thailand or Cambodia, where, admittedly, condom programs have been effective. In Thailand and Cambodia, where the main mode of HIV transmission was through commercial-sex, “it has been possible to enforce a 100 percent condom use policy in brothels.” (Though he does add that this was not the case outside of the commercial-sex practices.)  This means that prevention programs could easily target high-risk situations in Thailand and Cambodia with prophylactics and largely put a stop to transmission. This method of condom distribution won’t work in Africa because typical high-risk populations (men having sex with men, intravenous drug users, sex workers, etc.) associated with successful condom distribution programs are not the ones most affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Rather, it is long-term heterosexual relationships that are “driving” the epidemic. University of California researchers say, “the public health benefit of condom promotion in settings with widespread heterosexual transmission… remains unestablished.” Given this fact, we can’t use generalized, blanketed condom distribution plans to fix problems which are not parallel to countries where similar programs showed some success.

Green asserts that monogamy and fidelity were effective tools to prevention in African nations prior to western influences injecting “condom-mania” into the continent as the main form of prevention. After the introduction of condoms in places such as Uganda, there was a noted increase in the incidence of HIV/AIDS due to what Green says was a decrease in the government’s attention to preventing risky behaviors in favor of new condom policies. In Uganda, Kenya, and Zimbabwe, more community-based prevention programs that target breaking down sexual-web of transmission have proved to be more effective within the framework of existing African populations. These “Zero-Grazing” campaigns encouraged faithful relationships (preferably monogamous), and were successful in African countries even before there was widespread distribution of condoms.

Using similar, effective community-based health programs, we should be targeting the HIV/AIDS risk-factors influencing Africa—not the risks facing Thailand and Cambodia.

By Polina Ukrainets

As a student of psychology and public health and as someone that grew up in Baltimore, I see the issue of addiction as an extremely important one. For decades there have been debates on how to handle addiction and whether it is a problem of criminal justice or of public health. Lately, and fortunately, there have been increasing attempts to make it the latter.

In an article published in the Baltimore Sun [i], Dr. Leana Wen, Baltimore’s health commissioner, explains a new statewide initiative called LEAD that will focus on treatment of addiction rather than on incarceration. LEAD has already been found to be successful in downtown Seattle. The article notes that a defining feature of the initiative is that “there is no arrest at all”. I think that this is an extremely important step to help addicts without throwing them into what is often called the “revolving door” of the criminal justice system. The program also seeks to help addicts while they are in prison and immediately upon release to assist them in returning to the community while decreasing the risk of relapse. In Baltimore, the heroin epidemic is climbing, with the number of overdoses having doubled since 2010. The drug economy contributes greatly to Baltimore’s high crime rates, another major area of concern. It is time that we accept that jailing addicts will not cure this widespread health issue and implement programs like LEAD that can holistically help the community.

The drug crisis is not confined to Baltimore, or to heroin. The New York Times reports similar patterns with anti-anxiety drugs [ii]. They report that the rate of overdoses involving benzodiazepine prescriptions was 0.58 per 100,000 adults in 1996 and rose to 3.07 per 100,000 adults in 2013. Interestingly, this article notes that much public attention is on the abuse of opioid painkillers, which often leads to heroin abuse. When reading about Baltimore, that was certainly the case. When reading the comments on the New York Times article, a commenter that claimed to suffer from chronic pain and to use prescription painkillers properly even called the attention on opioid abuse a “hysteria” and a “shameful witch hunt.” Reading these comments really made me think about how people outside of the public health community view these issues of addiction.

Between all of the public health classes I have taken, I have seen Elizabeth Pisani’s TED Talk “Sex, drugs, and HIV” [iii] countless times, and each time I find something interesting and relevant in it. Pisani is a public health researcher that has worked with a number of at-risk populations, one of which being heroin addicts in prison. She discusses the sharing of needles in prison as a major contributor to HIV transmission but presents an extremely interesting point: in an addict’s mind, not using the shared needle would mean not getting high, therefore the use of the shared needle is perfectly rational to the addict. Pisani goes on to discuss clean needle programs and their success in various countries, noting that they are not popular in the U.S. and asks the question: why? Pisani then shows what I think is an extremely accurate and powerful visual (taken directly from the TED Talk video):


As I was reading the comments on the previously mentioned news articles and reflecting on the general public view of drug users, I immediately thought of this image. The public wants to put their money and efforts into bright, hopeful children rather than hopeless addicts.

As public health professionals, I think it is our responsibility to research, raise awareness, and provide treatment and support to this vulnerable population.



[i] http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/bs-md-heroin-economy-follow-20151223-story.html


[ii] http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/02/25/more-overdose-deaths-from-anxiety-drugs/?ref=health&_r=0


[iii] https://www.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_pisani_sex_drugs_and_hiv_let_s_get_rational_1?language=en


By Savannah Keller

When we think about modern pharmaceutical products, we look across the Charles River to the biotech companies that are developing cutting-edge drugs to combat rare clinical diseases. When we think about the burden of bacterial disease, we feel safe that simple antibiotics will keep us protected from such infections. Thus, our fears are averted towards the more complex viruses such as HIV and Malaria; a reasonable mindset due to the higher global death toll attributed to these viruses. But what will happen to us all when the basic antibiotics we so heavily take for granted stop working? In Maryn McKenna’s Ted Talk titled, What do we do when antibiotics don’t work anymore?, McKenna outlines a terrifying, yet practical reality, in which drug- resistant bacteria threatens the perceived safety of our post–Penicillin era. If McKenna’s predictions are, man kind could be approaching a new age of obsolete antibiotics. These scientific projections suggest that scenarios such as scraping your knee or a simple sinus infection could become life-threatening conditions.

Many men and women who hear about this new idea of drug resistant bacteria push the thought aside because they do not fully comprehend the severity of the threat. They wonder how antibiotics- a simple, safe and very reliable form of treating infections- could ever become ineffective. Well, the only people we have to blame are ourselves. The largest contributing factor to bacterial drug resistance is the overuse of antibiotics, and although this process may be scientific, one does not need to be a genetic physicist to understand how it occurs.

When antibiotics come into contact with bacteria, many of the bacteria will be killed; however, several bacteria will survive. They will then incorporate a small section of the antibiotic’s genetic code into their own genome, thus creating a resistance. Similar to how humans create antibodies that prevent us from contracting the same disease twice, now this bacterial molecule is resistant forever


And because the antibiotic killed all of the other original bactera, when this bacterial strain reproduces, the new generations will be exact copies of the strain resistant to antibiotics. This poses a threat to humans because if we are to contract this strain of a bacterial infection, the current drugs we have will not be able to fight it off.


The next question people may ask are how the bacterial strains are coming into contact with antibiotics in the first place. There are two simple answers to this question. The first answer is that we overuse antibiotics enormously. The second answer is surprising in that it combines two puzzling, yet connected concepts: livestock and soil.


Many Americans are unaware that nearly 80% of all antibiotics used in the United States today are given to livestock prophylactically. Meat producing companies dose their animals with antibiotics to prevent potential infections that would impede their growth. Cows outnumber humans in the United States 5:1 so you can only imagine the quantity of feces that these creatures are dumping back into the soil. The problem is that a huge percent of bacterial species reside in soil and according to a study published by the American Society of Microbiology in 2012, there is a “widespread presence of high level antibiotic-resistant bacteria in agricultural soils.” This soil is then used for more farming and more livestock grazing thus facilitating the rapid process of drug resistance.


The World Health organization offers two solutions to face this problem and both will require very simple, yet very resisted changes. First, the United States must stop over-prescribing and over abusing antibiotics.  Secondly, pharmaceutical companies need to focus more research on developing new anti-microbial drugs to fight these enhanced bacterial strains. However, the margin for profit is much smaller in comparison to drugs battling rare and specific cancer treatments, and therefore many drug companies are not willing to.


Unfortunately this will require large, moneymaking corporations (whom are profiting immensely from the over use of these drugs) to make revenue-reducing adjustments to their business models. Similar to the housing market crash of 2008, the economic players foresee a devastating crash, but are not willing to combat the problem. The most terrifying concept of this entire process is that once bacteria have become resistant, the antibiotics we rely on will become obsolete and ultimately useless.  McKenna argues that no matter how fancy new pharmaceutical drugs become, the human population will not live long enough to need them if deadly bacterial infections emerge again.



“Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria Proliferate in Agricultural Soils.” American Society for Microbiology, 2012. Web. 23 Feb. 2016.


McKenna, Maryn. “What Do We Do When Antibiotics Don’t Work Any More?” Ted Talks, Mar. 2015. Web. 23 Feb. 2016.


Popowska, M., Maryn Rzeczycka, and A. Miernik. “Influence of Soil Use on Prevalence of Tetracycline, Streptomycin, and Erythromycin Resistance and Associated Resistance Genes.” American Society for Microbiology 56.3 (2012): n. pag. Web.


Race against Time to Develop New Antibiotics.” Bulletin of the World Health Organization. World Health Organization, 2011. Web. 23 Feb. 2016.



By Dionna Joynes

If you couldn’t tell from the title of this blog post, then I will warn you all now. The topic of this post is HIGHLY disturbing in the way that it violates basic human rights, encourages the degradation of young future women in the long term, uses the face of culture and purity as a wayward choice to control the girls in specific communities, and it may even cause for a closer look at the health care providers you and your family use, So, for those of you who don’t know, this post is about Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), also known as FGC, Female Genital Circumcision. A short definition of what this process implies is, intentional injury to female genital organs for non medical purposes. This process has occurred for at least a couple centuries, at the very least. As I researched the topic of FGM, there were many things that came up that interested, as well as disgusted me. As a Health Science/Public Health student, I always try to remain open minded and non judgmental for new ideas that are completely different from the ones I grew up on. However, the practice of FGM, in my opinion, should signal for a global emergency or call of action. There are four different types of FGM, all in which include removing a piece or many pieces of a female’s genital organs. Most of the communities and countries that have participated in this practice have been very religious based. Let’s keep in mind that I am not using culture or religion as an excuse to cut up little girls. Speaking of age, majority of the females who have this procedure are between infancy and early teenage years. For those who don’t get the visual picture, this includes cutting into a wide range of females from maybe a few months out of their mother’s womb, all the way up until they barely have reached puberty.


I read a few articles and journals about the topic and they were all disturbing. As one who wrote a High School senior thesis on this topic, I feel very strongly about eradication of the procedure as soon as possible. The specific article I will be addressing today took controversy to an entire different level. Two American gynecologists spoke out about FGM and stated that some of the types of procedure should be allowed because of the symphony towards everyone’s individual religion. Firstly, I have no problem with everyone having their own religion. I am a very religious person and I respect anyone who lives their life based on faith. However, when faith turns into intentional harm against someone else, I don’t believe it is truly about faith anymore. It is about control. Secondly, simply having laws passed to allow some “mild” types of FGM to be before is not only bizarre but it undermines all the global efforts that have been occurring for many years to eradicate the procedure.


I found that this article was most shocking because the gynecologists were American and sometimes Americans have a tendency of playing precious martyrs and believing anything they don’t do is not correct. The fact that these doctors truly believed that there should be a shortcut to getting rid of this procedure is a total smack in the face towards little girls globally who are preparing to be held down, while pieces of themselves are changed forever. This procedure doesn’t just affect the short term, it greatly affects the future a woman has, whether sexually, reproductively, physically, emotionally, mentally, even simply socially. What little girl wants to really grow up knowing that yes she had endured the procedure to remain pure until marriage, but that on her wedding night her husband physically will have to cut through stitches in an area that makes her a woman? Do you think a newborn baby is worried about never wanting to physically lay with her future spouse because of a procedure that ensures complete control over her? The answer is simply no.  I would definitely recommend this article as well as any piece of literature about FGM to every single person in the world. This is an important movement. One , when I was younger, didn’t want to be apart of because I wanted to be respectful of different cultures. Not anymore. FGM is a topic that is always in the news. Whether it is about whether little girls in Indonesia should be legally required to have the procedure or how adult women suffer tremendously from PTSD and will for the rest of their lives.










Video on FGM: (Not for the weak)