Managing menstruation amid a cyclone and a pandemic

Managing menstruation amid a cyclone and a pandemic

Adapted from stories provided by Plan International

The Buzi district was one of the areas most affected by Cyclone Idai in Sofala Province, Mozambique, in 2019. More than a year later, many of those who lost their homes due to intense flooding face water shortages, affecting water capacity of a girl and woman to take proper care of their monthly menstrual cycle and personal hygiene.

Exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, many families are in worse financial shape than before – making disposable sanitary napkins a luxury for girls and young women living in Idai accommodation centers.

Domingas is a 15-year-old girl from Sofala province who has lived in the reception center in Nhamatanda for more than a year with her parents and 6 siblings. With her parents unemployed and totally dependent on her small plot of land for food, she had no access to menstrual products, including underwear and pads, for months.

“I have a hard time buying pads because they are expensive; I can’t buy them every month. When I don’t have disposable sanitary napkins, I make a multilayer absorbent with pieces of cloth. But they are uncomfortable and, as they leak, I cannot be very active during the day, which means that I cannot help my parents in the field ”, says Domingas.

Led by the Government of Mozambique, and through financial support from the Government of Norway, and in partnership with BeGirl Mozambique, the Association for the Promotion and Development of Women (MAHLAHLE) and Plan International Mozambique, hundreds of young women and adolescents affected by cyclone girls living in accommodation centers in Sofala province are receiving reusable menstrual panties.

“Menstruation should be a normal and healthy part of a woman’s life, but for many girls and young women around the world, menstruation can be a monthly struggle. Before the pandemic, more than 500 million women and girls around the world did not have the means to manage their menstrual cycle, also known as a “period of poverty”, which creates barriers to health, education and opportunities for success ” , shared Andrea M. Wojnar in a statement during “Menstrual Hygiene Day” in May 2020.

The project provided more than 4,000 girls with menstrual hygiene products (menstrual panties, menstrual pads, educational tools), equipping them with material that would normally be expensive and difficult to access, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. The lack of menstrual hygiene products and limited access to drinking water can prevent them from daily activities, such as going to school, helping with household chores and socializing.

Without adequate menstrual hygiene in place, especially in hot and humid climates, girls and women are at increased risk of infections with impacts on their health and physical and mental well-being.

“Before COVID-19, I was absent for a few days when I was menstruating because I didn’t have adequate materials for menstrual hygiene. Since I received reusable panties … I can continue to be productive during my period. I can go to school and not delay my studies ”, says Domingas.

In the midst of a cyclone or COVID-19, something as natural as a monthly period experienced by half the world’s population, including girls like Domingas, should not add to the burden of stress, nor should it bring shame, health complications or stigma.

UNFPA’s support to the Government of Mozambique, with the involvement of several implementing partners, aims to ensure that adolescents and young women are informed and supported with supplies and materials to care for their bodies and menstrual hygiene.

* In 2020, UNFPA supported a qualitative study – Menstrual Management in the midst of Dual Disasters: Cyclone Idai Plus COVID-19 in Sofala, Mozambique – in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Human Development, BeGirl and Plan International. Read the report to hear what girls – and boys – have to say about barriers and solutions for menstruation management in overlapping disaster contexts.

– by UNFPA Mozambique