Safeguarding the menstrual health of adolescent girls affected by the rising waters of Kenya’s rift valley lakes

Safeguarding the menstrual health of adolescent girls affected by the rising waters of Kenya’s rift valley lakes

In 2020 more than 1,000 homesteads located around Lakes Baringo and Bogoria in Baringo County were affected by flooding caused by high water levels. This resulted in the displacement of families, as well as school and hospital closures. Mounting a flood response proved to be particularly challenging as the country was also grappling with the Covid-19 pandemic and a desert locust invasion that threatened the health and livelihoods of millions. The community faced hygiene challenges after several sanitation facilities including toilets were damaged by the floods. The impact on livelihoods meant that many families could not afford to purchase basic hygiene supplies such as soap, and toilet paper. UNFPA Kenya partnered with ChildFund to provide hygiene supplies to young girls and women living in Baringo South Sub-County’s most affected areas of Kampi ya Samaki, Ngambo and Ilng’arua locations in Marigat through the distribution of dignity kits.

More than 200 adolescent girls from the flood-affected areas received the dignity kits which also contained a supply of sanitary towels to help in the management of their menstrual hygiene during the emergency. The girls were also mentored on safeguarding their menstrual health, and staying safe in the face of the pandemic. With the support of UNFPA, ChildFund also conducted wider community dialogues on preventing early and child marriage, teenage pregnancy, and gender based violence for women and girls in the affected communities.

“Preserving girls’ dignity is essential in maintaining self-esteem and confidence, which is important in helping them cope in stressful and potentially overwhelming humanitarian situations such as these floods,” pointed out Chege Ngugi, Country Director- ChildFund Kenya. He adds that the dignity kits contributed to the psychological and physical well-being of the girls, while allowing budget substitution for families. 16 year old Jebet was amongst the girls who received the dignity kits. Having enrolled in her first year of high school, the pandemic had interrupted her studies, and with many schools destroyed in the floods, she was uncertain of when she would return to school. “I’m grateful to have the kind of support provided by ChildFund and UNFPA, not only through the dignity kits but also the counselling and advice given on how to take care of myself,” she said.

During disasters such as the flooding witnessed in Baringo county, health services – including sexual and reproductive health services – are often limited and at times not available. Women and girls’ ability to manage their menstruation with dignity is impaired when there is a lack of clean water and menstrual products. They also face a heightened risk of gender-based violence and harmful practices such as child marriage, as families struggle to cope with the humanitarian consequences of such disasters.

UNFPA’s work on sexual and reproductive health, education, and violence prevention helps promote resilience among vulnerable populations, making them better equipped to prepare for and respond to climate-related crises.

by Irene Wangui