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3 March 2022
Female genital schistosomiasis (FGS) affects 56 million women and girls across Africa. The disease is entirely preventable but if infection occurs and appropriate treatment is not provided, it can lead to various complications such as bleeding during or after sexual intercourse, genital lesions, cancer, and infertility. Symptoms of FGS are often confused with those of sexually transmitted infections therefore misdiagnosis is common. This has serious consequences for women who not only suffer physical symptoms but also mental health problems due to stigma.
Women who rely on the use of contaminated surface water for their daily activities, including cooking, cleaning and bathing, and livelihoods such as agriculture and fishing, are most at risk of FGS.
It is caused by the parasite Schistosoma haematobium, which impacts the urinary and genital tract of those infected. S. haematobium is carried by freshwater snails and infection occurs when the parasite’s larvae penetrate a person’s skin during contact with contaminated water.
To mark International Women’s Day, we draw attention to the risks posed to women as a result of infection, with a particular focus on female farmers in Côte d’Ivoire. Raising awareness of FGS is critical so that affected communities can take action to address the risks and impact of this disease, including the stigma that surrounds it. SCI Foundation has been supporting partners to tackle this issue, more recently through a pilot project in the Soubré district of Côte d’Ivoire.
Click below to view our photo story In pictures: The invisible parasite threatening female farmers in Côte d’Ivoire.
Find out more about the FGS projects we’re involved in:
Join us for the second Delivering Women’s Health panel discussion: ‘The urgency and practicalities of integrating Female Genital Schistosomiasis into Women’s Health & Primary Care Services’.
(Female Genital Schistosomiasis Integration Group – An innovative coalition of organisations galvanising joint action to tackle the neglected issue of FGS.
Farmers plough their rice fields in Grand-Zattry, Soubré District of Côte d’Ivoire. Credit: SCI Foundation/Aka Aboubakhr Thierry Kouamé