The number of girls undergoing female genital mutilation has fallen dramatically in east Africa over the past two decades, according to a study published in the British Medical Journal.
The study, which looked at rates of FGM among girls aged 14 and under, suggests that prevalence in east Africa has dropped from 71.4% in 1995, to 8% in 2016.
The reported falls in the rates of FGM are far greater than previous studies have suggested, though some in the development community have advised caution over the figures.
In February, the United Nations Population Fund warned the number of #women predicted to be mutilated each year could rise to 4.6 million by 2030, an increase driven by population growth in communities that carry out the practice.
According to the study in the BMJ, the rates of FGM practised on children have fallen in north Africa, from 57.7% in 1990 to 14.1% in 2015. In west Africa, prevalence is also reported to have decreased from 73.6% in 1996 to 25.4% in 2017.
The study aimed to assess if FGM awareness campaigns targeted at mothers had been successful. Unlike many other studies, older teenagers and adult women – who tend to have higher rates of FGM – were not included. The research developed estimates by pooling and comparing FGM data by proportion across countries and regions, using a meta-analysis technique.
Nafissatou Diop, coordinator of UNFPA-Unicef joint programme, said it was possible that girls included in the study would still undergo FGM at a later point in their teenage years.