The effects of Covid-19 on Menstrual Hygiene Management

Practicing a proper menstrual hygiene management has always been a struggle for women and girls living close to the poverty line in Kenya. However, the current pandemic has made the situation even worse. Managing their period safely and with dignity seems to be a woman´s and girl´s fundamental right – however, the Covid-19 crisis has made it even more difficult for women to manage menstrual hygiene properly.

Washing hands regularly is an effective way to delay the spread of the virus - but the additional need for in many areas already limited purified water made it even more difficult to practice the right hygiene during menstruation. Many known practices for people living at the poverty line, such as cleaning reusable menstrual products to prevent bacterial infections, have been reduced, simply because of a lack of availability and put women at a higher risk of infections.

Financial losses - Missing money for period products

Economic and financial pressure is a common side effect of the measures taken during the pandemic. The lockdowns and the closures of shops and businesses has led to an enormous loss of informal jobs. Many people have not been able to work and to generate income. In addition, disrupted supply chains have raised the selling price of goods, making them even less affordable. Hygiene products, which are often too expensive anyway, have become unaffordable and have forced families to invest the little money they had rather into food than in women hygiene products.

Closures of schools with devastating consequences

Many schools have also been remaining their doors closed for months. Schools usually play an important role in education about menstrual hygiene, just like community centers and similar touchpoints of education.  All those were mainly closed in the past months due to the pandemic, and as talking about menstruation is often even at home considered to be a taboo, many girls lack the opportunity to receive information. But the closure of schools has another side effect: The government and some non-governmental organizations usually provide free pads for girls in need at schools. So, by closing those, the opportunity to get sanitary pads was also denied for many girls without financial reserves.

Many women and girls are left with no choice but using alternatives such as pieces of clothes, toilet paper or anything found that is slightly usable. But mostly these alternatives are unclean and unhygienic – and sometimes lead to bacteria growth, and reproductive and urinal infections.

Taking action by connecting opportunities

Seeing all these challenges, Making More Health (MMH) has already taken steps to support women in these times of crisis. At Lake Victoria, women connected to our NGO partner WAWA manufacture reusable sanitary pads. MMH ordered 1800 of those pads to be handed out to women in our project areas in Webuye and Eldoret, and thereby created a win-win situation by ensuring an income for the producing women and giving women in our project areas the opportunity to a healthier menstrual hygiene management.