Economics & FGM

WHO’s costs calculation tool


On February 6th 2020 – the International Day Against FGM- the WHO’s cost calculation tool was launched in Brussels. It is available online following this link:

The WHO FGM Cost Calculator estimates the current and projected financial health care costs associated with FGM in 30 specific countries, as well as the potential cost savings to health systems when reducing the amount of new cases of FGM.

27 African countries were studied and are currently available in the tool. Low FGM prevalence rates or lack of data did not allow the scientists to include other countries (such as Indonesia, Uganda and Liberia). For prevalence rates lower than 10%, it is hard to see the real economic impact of FGM, and thus to obtain relevant results in terms of the evolution of the costs. Nevertheless, Benin and Cameroon (who are in that category) are included.

FGM currently represents a financial burden of USD 1,44 billion by year. If the prevalence rate remains stable, this figure is expected to increase by 50% over the next thirty years. On the contrary, if the practice is abandoned, the costs are expected to decrease by 60% over those same thirty years.

According to Christina Pallitto, the motivation of the WHO to develop the tool was to demonstrate that “FGM is a financial burden for countries” but also for women and the whole of society. It highlights that FGM is both a public health and an economic issue and so encourages governments to act and support the work which is already underway to end FGM. The tool does not offer solutions on how to eradicate FGM but aims to be a useful tool for educating and raising awareness about the issue.

In other words, the tool evaluates and compares the costs of inaction (”business as usual”) with the savings which occur thanks to prevention and a decrease in the prevalence rates.

Four cost categories are included:

  • Immediate
  • Obstetric
  • Psychological / sexual
  • Urogynecological

These costs are evaluated considering the costs of medical complications via the health services used, medical consultations, days spent at hospital, etc. At present, the data collection does not allow the inclusion of social costs such as lost days of schooling for girls, lost days of work on the labor market for women, etc.

In the tool, a filter allows you to select the percentage of a decrease in prevalence going from 0 (no change, “business as usual”) to 1 (full abandonment).

The parameters also show the prevalence rates of FGM Type I/II and FGM Type III in the specific country.

The costs are calculated globally and the tool does not allow to change the prevalence rates of a specific FGM type, i.e to show what would happen if in a given society communities shifted from type III to type I. This choice was a deliberate one by the WHO as the organization does not want to feed into the arguments of those considering that less invasive types of FGM would be an acceptable “harm reduction strategy” and cost reduction strategy, since all types of FGM are a violation of the girl’s and woman’s human rights.

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