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Silent Epidemic of Female Genital Schistosomiasis Strikes Women and Girls in Ondo and Kebbi States – Sightsavers Raises Alarm

In the midst of the rising prevalence of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) across Nigeria, Sightsavers Nigeria has sounded the alarm about a severe and little-known affliction: Female Genital Schistosomiasis (FGS). This silent but damaging disease has been detected among women and girls in specific local government areas in Ondo and Kebbi States. Sightsavers Nigeria unveiled these distressing findings during a research dissemination meeting on Female Genital Schistosomiasis (FGS), emphasizing that the condition is linked to the use of water bodies, like lakes, streams, ponds, and rivers, for various daily activities.

The Impact of FGS on Women and Girls

Female Genital Schistosomiasis (FGS) is a gynecological condition affecting women aged 15 and above. This often-neglected disease primarily strikes communities where residents rely heavily on water bodies for daily activities, including washing, bathing, fetching water, swimming, and fishing. FGS can be devastating, leading to symptoms such as recurrent vaginal discharges, abnormal vaginal bleeding, painful intercourse, ectopic pregnancy, and even infertility.

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The Research Findings

Sightsavers Nigeria conducted an extensive study in four Local Government Areas (LGAs), revealing that FGS prevalence in these areas was alarmingly high, at around 41%. This calls attention to the potential widespread impact of FGS across Nigeria. However, the study emphasizes that more comprehensive research is needed to understand the true extent of the issue.

Addressing the Challenges

Addressing FGS requires a multi-faceted approach. First, the national program for Schistosomiasis must take the lead in addressing the issue and seek support from relevant development partners. Education is crucial, and every doctor and frontline health worker should be trained to recognize and manage FGS. Providing guidelines for healthcare facilities and workers at all levels is essential. Additionally, there is a need to increase awareness at the state, local government, and community levels, as FGS impacts not only NTDs but also water, sanitation, and reproductive health.

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Read WHO Publication on FGS

Preventing FGS

Preventing FGS necessitates treating everyone in endemic communities, not just school-age children. Communities must also promote behavioral changes, such as refraining from urinating in water bodies, to prevent further infections. While resources are limited, adherence to treatment for Schistosomiasis is critical.

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Collaboration and Funding

Addressing FGS requires collaboration among NGOs, the government, private sector, and local communities. Funding is a significant challenge, and government support, along with public-private partnerships, is essential. Domestic support and involvement from all stakeholders are needed to eliminate FGS.

Hope for the Future

The findings from this study offer hope for scaling up efforts to combat FGS and provide much-needed data to guide future interventions. To eradicate FGS and its devastating impact on women and girls, collective action and increased funding are imperative.

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