Sierra Leoneans halt genital mutilation amid Ebola fears - UK minister -TRFN
By Emma Batha
LONDON, March 20 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The Ebola epidemic that has ravaged West Africa appears to have brought the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) to a near halt in Sierra Leone, a British minister said on Friday.
International development minister Lindsay Northover urged donors, aid agencies, campaigners and others to capitalise on the opportunity to make the break permanent.
"We are aware that at the moment with the Ebola crisis ... cutting has temporarily stopped," Northover said.
"We have to seize this opportunity and see if we can move forward and end FGM," she told a conference on FGM in London.
"I've talked to the head of DFID (Department for International Development) in Sierra Leone to see what she can do to build partnerships very, very rapidly to see if we can change attitudes."
She said her counterparts at the U.S. development agency USAID were making a similar push in Liberia where the ancient and deeply entrenched practice also appears to have stopped.
Ebola, which is spread through infected bodily fluids, has killed more than 10,200 people -- mostly in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.
FGM involves the partial or total removal of the external genitalia and is often carried out in mass initiation ceremonies with many girls cut using the same blade. Continued...