I thank the Deputy for raising this question. Female genital mutilation is a fundamental violation of the human rights of women and girls. It is nearly always carried out on girls under the age of 18. Approximately 3.6 million girls are at risk of being subjected to FGM each year. According to the World Health Organization, there are 200 million girls and women in 30 countries affected by FGM. While there has been an overall decline in the prevalence of FGM in the past three decades, not all countries have made progress and the pace of decline is very uneven.
In 2018 Ireland co-sponsored resolutions in the Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly calling for the intensification of efforts to eliminate FGM globally. The Government's new policy for international development, A Better World, launched last February, has gender equality at its core. A Better World commits to strengthening and intensifying Ireland's work to end all forms of gender-based violence, building on our previous work in this area.
Ireland also provides support to a number of UN agencies, including UNICEF and the United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA, that are working to address FGM. UNFPA and UNICEF jointly lead the largest global programme to accelerate the elimination of FGM, which currently focuses on 17 African countries with the highest prevalence of FGM. The Government supports the development of legislation outlawing FGM, funds community and media education initiatives on FGM and provides training to improve healthcare and protection services for those affected.
In addition, the European Union and the UN are collaborating on a new global initiative called the Spotlight Initiative. This focuses on the elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls, addressing the most prevalent forms of such violence in specific regions. In Africa, the Spotlight Initiative is concentrating on sexual and gender-based violence and harmful practices including FGM.