11. Kumbuna, Gambia 2002

The two and a half year old with twelve tiny braids pointing in all directions certainly isn’t the typical patient in the women’s health ward – thankfully.


In many parts of Africa, millions of girls like Kumbuna are still subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM) each year – but the numbers were even greater in 2002 when Kumbuna was admitted to the Anastasis. She had been ‘circumcised’ at least six different times in her short life, beginning on her eighth day on earth, the day after her naming ceremony.

Kumbuna’s father was progressive; he wanted his daughters to remain untouched and opposed this cultural practice. But the village hierarchy of decision-making went against his wishes. His mother, a powerful figure in their tribe used her position of authority as well as position as the namesake, and insisted that the ritual take place. The wound created by razors or broken glass healed over Kumbuna’s urethra, making it nearly impossible for the little girl to urinate. Five times they tried to recreate an opening; five times it healed over.

After the Grandmother died, Kumbuna’s Mum brought her to the Anastasis for help. When the toddler arrived she could only pass a trickle of water once a day – while she was walking.
The Mercy Ships surgeons successfully performed the essential operation, but the healing process was agony for the little girl. But finally, the pain stopped as the wound healed. Never had a mother been so delighted when her daughter headed off to the toilet.

Kumbuna received her free surgery in 2002, and FGM was finally outlawed in The Gambia in 2015. Sadly, the FGM rate in The Gambia remains high at 76.3% in 2013 – although the figure had been slowly dropping.

Please take a moment to pray for the girls and women in The Gambia to be freed from FGM