In West Africa the decline was less pronounced but still significant: from 73 percent in 1996 to a little over 25 percent in 2017.
But the study, published Wednesday in the BMJ journal, found that FGM rates in Middle Eastern nations — including Yemen and Iraq — had increased.
Naana Otoo-Oyortey, executive director of the anti-FGM charity Forward not involved in the research, told AFP the study would prove “critical in providing insights on reduction in the prevalence of FGM within the 0-14 year group”.
But she said it painted an incomplete picture as in some nations, new laws banning FGM might simply be stopping families reporting the practice, rather than abandoning it altogether.
“It is vital that prevalence statistics are accompanied by a contextual and nuanced analysis of shifts in attitudes towards FGM across these countries,” said Otoo-Oyortey.
‘Challenge social norms’
Jamillah Mwanjisi, head of advocacy, campaigns and media for Save the Children Somalia/Somaliland, without commenting on the study, said FGM remained a major problem.
“We don’t have a clear-cut law that says FGM is a criminal offence against children,” she told AFP, without commenting on the study’s findings.