500 million women lack adequate water facilities for menstrual hygiene

Every day, more than 300 million women worldwide menstruate, in total, an estimated 500 million women worldwide do not have access to specific hygiene products and proper menstrual hygiene products (MHM). Every year on May 28, the United Nations and various NGOs try to cover this issue by celebrating the International Day of Menstrual Hygiene. Goal? A world where no one will be left behind because by 2030 they are menstruating.

According to the Joint Program of the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF, proper menstrual hygiene occurs when “women and adolescents use clean menstrual control material to absorb or collect menstrual blood, which you can change privately so often. . when needed, they use soap and water to wash their bodies as needed, and they have access to safe and convenient means so you can dispose of used materials to control your menstrual cycle. They understand the basics of the menstrual cycle and how to manage it with dignity and without discomfort or fear. “

Lack of menstrual hygiene, also called menstrual poverty, is a type of deficiency that threatens the well-being and empowerment of women and adolescents. Several studies have shown that their health and lives are also at risk due to lack of water. In February 2022, experts warned about the situation in the Journal of Global Health Reports and pointed out that menstrual hygiene is everyone’s business.

“In both developed and developing countries, governments, decision-makers and educators need to take menstrual hygiene more seriously. Awareness of the menstrual cycle should improve in general, “they said.

Nor is it a problem of limited size: almost half of the world’s population does not have access to adequate sanitation. According to UNICEF, about 23 million girls in India drop out of school each year due to a lack of safe and hygienic menstrual control, including access to WASH and a lack of awareness about menstruation. In the same country, of the 355 million women and adolescents who are menstruating, 12% cannot afford menstrual products.

According to UNICEF in 2022, at least 1 in 10 rural women and girls did not have a private place to wash and change their clothes during their last period. This added to the lack of access to hygiene products that would allow them to cope with the period and thus avoid dropping out of school.

Despite all these arguments, menstrual hygiene is not a one-sided problem: the only way to end stigma is to provide women and adolescents with WASH, hygiene products and education. According to a World Bank study called Rising Tide, Water and Gender, education should include men, as it is the only way to end the stigma and shame surrounding menstruation.

According to the latest analysis, restrictions on participation in school, work and social activities during menstruation differed by geographical, socio-economic and individual characteristics. Stigma and lack of access to menstrual hygiene were common factors among those with restraint. Many girls also did not know about menstruation before the first cycle, which can affect their perception and understanding of menstruation.

  • On average, girls and younger women who did not participate were higher: 15 per cent of girls in Burkina Faso; 20 per cent in Côte d’Ivoire; and 23 per cent in Nigeria have missed school in the last 12 months through menstruation.
  • More than half of women in Bangladesh and more than two-thirds in Nepal said they did not take part in their daily activities during menstruation. In Chad and the Central African Republic, one in three said they had lost.
  • Of the two countries with national data, only 32% and 66% of girls knew about menstruation before their first period in Bangladesh and Egypt, respectively. In Egypt, 74 per cent of girls who do not know felt shocked, scared or cried during the first case. Similarly, in Bangladesh, 69% are afraid.
  • The use of menstrual supplies and the availability of private places for washing and dressing are high in most countries that have reported this. However, the most vulnerable women and girls continue to face serious problems.
  • The use of menstrual supplies ranged from 81 per cent to universal in most countries. However, in Niger, 6% of women used paper; 12% used only underwear in Burkina Faso; 11% did not use anything in Ethiopia.
  • The availability of private laundry and changing clothes ranged from 80 to 99 per cent in most countries where data are available. However, in Niger, Tunisia and Burkina Faso, only 52%, 56% and 74% had such facilities, respectively.
  • In urban and rural areas, the use of menstrual materials was low, with the exception of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Ethiopia and Niger, where the use of materials was more than 10 per cent higher in urban areas than in rural areas.
  • However, private facilities were less accessible in rural areas than in urban areas. In 12 countries with data, at least 1 in 10 rural women and girls did not have a private place to wash and change during their last period.
  • Ethnic groups and those living in emergencies face even greater challenges, with less access to menstrual and basic resources and more restrictions on participation than the rest of the population.
  • In the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, there was more than a 30 per cent difference between a Khmer and a Lao Thai in terms of a private place for washing and dressing and the use of menstrual means. In the Central African Republic, Haus women were 20 per cent more likely to be involved in their daily lives during menstruation than Mbum women.
  • Data from refugee camps in eight countries show different levels of satisfaction. Almost all women reported being satisfied with menstrual supplies and facilities in Mozambique and Iraq, compared with less than half of women in refugee camps in Cameroon, Malawi and South Sudan.

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