COVID-19 Pandemic is Making Periods Difficult for Women

The coronavirus pandemic is causing already present health inequities to exacerbate. One of these issues is the period poverty. This International Menstrual Hygiene Day on May 28, the charity Plan International has released a new report that shows that period poverty and attached female stigma are getting worse during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Period poverty is a global public health issue of far reaching consequences. It means that due to financial issues and price hikes, women and girls do not have access to period products. This can have detrimental effects on their reproductive health in the long run.

Period poverty is basically lack of access to sanitary products, education about menstrual hygiene, toilets, handwashing facilities, and waste management of products related to feminine hygiene and periods. This issue affects millions of women around the world that have a period during their reproductive years.

This new research from the development and humanitarian agency Plan International has found that the Covid-19 pandemic is leaving women struggling to manage their periods. The survey was conducted in 30 countries and hundreds of people responded to it.

The shocking results from the survey revealed that 73 percent of people had restricted access to feminine hygiene products due to shortages or disrupted supply chains amid coronavirus pandemic.

It was the most commonly reported issue in the report, and it was shown that disruption of global chains and halting of small businesses has rendered women without sanitary napkins and products especially in remote areas like villages.

Nearly 68 percent of the participants also said that there was a restricted access to facilities to change, clean and dispose of period products during the pandemic. In many parts of the world girls do not have access to even lavatories to perform these activities.

Already in the world 2.3 billion people lack basic sanitation services and countries that are the least developed report only 27 percent of the population with hand washing facilities.

This crisis is exacerbated right now as many of these women and girls who rely on public toilets and schools for sanitation, do not have any access to them right now. The coronavirus pandemic has closed schools and such facilities all over the world.

The report by Plan International also shows that 58 percent of the participants have experienced a price hike in sanitary and period products.  This has also decreased the access of women to such products.

One woman even reported the use of her child’s diapers in her periods as she had no access to sanitary napkins.

A new report by the IMF called World Economic Outlook obtaining data from World Bank’s PovcalNet has also reveled that this pandemic 9is likely to cause the first increase in global poverty since 1998.

The prediction is that the pandemic will make 49 million people in the world extremely poor by 2020.

This overall fall in the wealth by the masses will also increase period poverty more than current situation as more women will be unlikely be able to buy sanitary products.

Another cause for loss of access to such products has been identified as panic buying.

The Head of Disaster Response Management, United Kingdom also explained it in the Plan International report by saying that “those who rely on food banks have been hard hit due to middle classes stockpiling [sanitary pads] from supermarkets thus leaving vulnerable and those in poverty to go without.”

Many of the participants in the survey also reveled that women had lack of access to information and services and also a reduced access to clean water to manage periods during the lockdown.

In many cases charities, food banks, hygiene banks and hospitals have started to distribute period products so that they are widely available during the lockdown. However, in many cases this is even not providing the desired results due to lack of education about menstrual hygiene.

In India, a famous chef and philanthropist Vikas Khanna, who has been conducting wide spread food drives during the lockdown just revealed days ago that men that are getting the food and free sanitary products from them are actually throwing away these products on the roads and not giving it to the female family members.

The survey also noted that there has been a rise in shaming of women on their periods along with stigma attached to periods during this lockdown.

The disaster response manager from United Kingdom in the report noted that “Stigma regarding hormones and female mental health [has increased]. Increase in media discourse around men being “stuck” home with hormonal women.”

It was also noted that in many cases the women and girls have been forbidden to carry out many essential tasks such as cooking due to such stigma.

The charity that conducted the survey also warned that due to decreased access to menstrual products and information, the economic pressures during lockdown, and lack of sanitation services for these girls and women, period poverty will get worse than before.

The report also included a call to action to end period poverty from the world.

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