UNICEF - Menstrual health and hygiene management still out of reach for many

26 May 2022 11:16 AM

Stigma, poverty, and lack of access to basic services like toilets and water are causing menstrual health and hygiene needs to go unmet and increasing women and girls’ risk of infections, UNICEF warned ahead of Menstrual Hygiene Day. These challenges are particularly acute among the poorest, ethnic groups, refugees, and people with disabilities.

“Menstrual health and hygiene management, when available to all, can help dismantle barriers and support adolescent girls to become healthy, educated, and empowered women,” said Kelly Ann Naylor, UNICEF Director of Water, Sanitation, Hygiene (WASH) and Climate, Environment, Energy, and Disaster Risk Reduction (CEED). “Yet, until recently, little attention has been paid to defining, monitoring, and investing in menstrual health.”

The importance of menstrual health and hygiene management is slowly but increasingly being recognized and monitored. By 2020, 42 countries had nationally representative data on at least one of four indicators*, of which 31 had information on at least three indicators. Nearly half of the countries are in sub-Saharan Africa. No high-income countries had national data on any of the indicators.

According to the latest analysis, limitations on participation in school, work, and social activities while menstruating varied by geographical, socio-economic, and individual characteristics. Among those held back, stigma and lack of access to menstrual hygiene products were common factors. Many girls were also unaware of periods before their first cycle, which can affect their perception and understanding of menstruation.

The use of menstrual materials and the availability of a private place to wash and change is high in most of the reporting countries. However, the most vulnerable women and girls continue to face major challenges.

Ethnic groups and those living in emergency settings face even greater challenges, with less access to menstrual products and basic facilities and more limitations on participation than the rest of the population.

“Investment in menstrual hygiene management will benefit girls today, the women they will become tomorrow, and the next generation,” added Naylor.

Notes to editors:

* The JMP UNICEF-WHO report on WASH in households includes data on efforts to provide households with water, sanitation, and hygiene services, including menstrual hygiene management (MHM). This is the first time that MHM national data from 42 countries is collected and harmonized, to the extent possible, for cross-country comparison. The national household surveys included separate questionnaires for women and girls aged 15-49.

The four indicators related to menstrual health and associated WASH service are as follows:

  1. Awareness of menstruation before menarche (first menstruation).
  2. Use of menstrual materials to capture and contain menstrual blood, such as pads, cloths, tampons or cups. These can also be grouped into single-use and reusable materials.
  3. Access to a private place to wash and change while at home.
  4. Participation in activities during menstruation, such as school, work and social activities.

Find more details on menstrual health and hygiene here.

Read the JMP UNICEF-WHO WASH in households report here.

Download multimedia content here.

Notes to editors:

For more information, please contact UNICEF UK at media@unicef.org.uk or 0207 375 6030

About UNICEF

UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across more than 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.

The UK Committee for UNICEF (UNICEF UK) raises funds for UNICEF’s emergency and development work for children. We also promote and protect children’s rights in the UK and internationally. We are a UK charity, entirely funded by supporters.

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