Period poverty among refugees

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When we read about war and human displacement, the horror of the problem overwhelms our ability to comprehend the extent of the individual impacts. Likewise, those affected by such issues are unlikely to prioritise a plentiful supply of tampons among the few belongings that they flee their homes with. Period poverty in refugee camps is a serious problem with only 55% of the people who menstruate in refugee camps having adequate access to period products and only 37% sufficient access to underwear, according to a 2019 UNHCR report.

A lack of period products leads to poor menstrual hygiene management, which is often worsened by poor hygiene facilities and limited access to menstrual education in refugee camps. As well as causing distress and feelings of embarrassment, poor menstrual hygiene can have serious health implications including urinary tract infections which can lead to life-threatening diseases such as sepsis.

What’s more, the groundless stigma that surrounds periods, particularly in areas without access to menstrual information such as refugee camps, often pushes menstruators to try to hide their periods, waiting until late at night to dispose of their used period products or to change or wash their underwear. This can have extremely dangerous implications for women, who, according to Human Rights Watch, are already at a higher risk of sexual assault in refugee camps.

This may sound like a impermanent problem for many people; however, refugees can spend years or even decades in camps meaning young menstruators are often raised in the camps without satisfactory education, opportunities for employment or any expendable income to spend on menstrual products.

Although this problem exists constantly, the war in Ukraine has augmented the number of refugees globally; and, without taking into consideration those who are internally displaced, the Borgen Project states that 90% of the 7.5 million Ukrainian refugees are women and children. Unfortunately, as is the case in many refugee camps, Ukrainians have had to deal with no privacy and extremely limited hygiene facilities, making the use of reusable products impossible and the maintenance of good menstrual hygiene problematic.

How can you help?

Firstly, you can share this blog post or talk about it with your friends and family, the more widespread information about period poverty is, the more help refugees and asylum seekers will get.

Secondly, you can donate to freedom4girls, whether that be in cash, reusable period products or in-date disposable products. Although reusable products are a much more sustainable solution to the problem in refugee camps, they must come with the necessary infrastructure for cleaning them and the education on how to use them. Therefore, donations of any kind of period products are welcomed!

Thirdly, if you know of any groups or individuals in need of period products, please get in touch with us as we provide period products to those in need.

Finally, you can pressure your local MP or government by sending a letter, why not ask them to push for more government funding and awareness to help rid the world of period poverty once and for all.

Article by guest blogger, Jess French