Over 26 million displaced girls and women are estimated to be menstruating around the globe. A significant but often overlooked issue facing these girls and women is their ability to privately, safely and comfortably manage their monthly menstruation. In many humanitarian emergencies, there is a serious lack of access to even the most basic materials needed for managing the blood in addition to a lack of appropriate sanitation facilities (including water), which are critical for addressing menstrual hygiene. Privacy in emergencies is often scarce, and even if toilets are available they often lack locks, functioning doors, lighting and separation between genders. These barriers are often intensified by cultural beliefs and taboos surrounding menstruation which can restrict the movements and behaviors of girls and women (such as attending school, waiting in line for distributions or going to the market).
The menstrual hygiene management (MHM) in Emergencies project is a collaboration between the International Rescue Committee and Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, and is supported by Research for Health in Humanitarian Crises (R2HC). The aim of this project is to improve the guidance available to humanitarian responders who need to incorporate MHM into their programming during emergencies. Formative assessments were conducted in two humanitarian response settings (Myanmar and Lebanon) at the onset of the project in addition to interviews with global humanitarian experts, a major meeting of specialists across sectors and agencies, and a desk review. The toolkit was then piloted in an on-going emergency context (refugee camps in Tanzania) where it was evaluated and further improved upon.
The toolkit looks at MHM from a multi-sectoral perspective and aims to give practical, streamlined guidance to humanitarian workers. The toolkit is co-published by 27 leading organizations that work in the humanitarian sphere.
French and Arabic versions of the toolkit are under development
M. Sommer, M. Schmitt, D. Clatworthy, G. Bramucci, E. Wheeler, R. Ratnayake. 2016. “What is the scope for addressing menstrual hygiene management in complex humanitarian emergencies? A global review.” Waterlines 35:3.
M. Schmitt, M. Sommer, D. Clatworthy, G. Bramucci, E. Wheeler, R. Ratnayake. 2017. “Understanding the menstrual hygiene management challenges facing displaced girls and women: findings from qualitative assessments in Myanmar and Lebanon.” Conflict and Health [In press].
Sommer, M. “The Syrian Refugee Struggle No One’s Talking About.” 2015. [Editorial] Ms. Magazine Blog.