Anjum, Z., Pouramin, P., Glickman, T., Nagabhatla, N. (2019). A Synthesis Report Analyzing Menstrual Hygiene Management Within a Humanitarian Crisis, OIDA International Journal on Sustainable Development, Vol. 12, No. 05, pp. 61-72. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3481936
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA) releases Humanitarian Response Plans (HRPs) annually to share their approach in tackling the “assessed and expressed needs” of a country related to a humanitarian crisis. Dimensions such as logistics, health- and/or safety-related responses are highlighted in the HRPs; however, gender-sensitive aspects, such as women’s health, are often overlooked. One key aspect that is relatively under-reflected in the HRPs is Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM), which is the ability to manage menstruation safely and confidently. This aspect is also central to achieving gender-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially SDG 5, which focuses on women’s health and the related socio-economic and psychosocial outcomes. Negative consequences of poor MHM practices may include reproductive tract infections and skin irritation, as well as stress and diminished dignity. In the presence of a crisis, such consequences are further aggravated due to geographical displacement. Currently, the HRPs lack a universal policy around the provision of MHM in a humanitarian context. This synthesis aims to identify the gaps within the HRPs published by UN-OCHA during the years 2016-2018 and explores the extent of the distribution of dignity kits in a humanitarian crisis.
The UN-OCHA HRP documents published between 2016 and 2018 were retrieved from the UN-OCHA Humanitarian Response database. A search strategy for MHM-related products including dignity kits as well as other kits that may or may not contain MHM-related products (i.e., water, sanitation & hygiene (WaSH) kits; non-food items (NFI) kits) was employed. Notably, in 2016, 31% of HRPs from African countries and 40% of HRPs from Asian countries explicitly mentioned dignity kits. In 2017, we found that only 33% of HRPs from African and 100% of HRPs from Asian countries mentioned dignity kits whereas in 2018, it was 50% of HRPs from African and 67% of HRPs from Asian countries. There was also a temporal and spatial variation in the number of countries that mentioned MHM-related terms including dignity kits. Overall, only a few countries have adopted dignity kits to address women’s unique needs in a humanitarian context, others intend to address this topic through WASH and/or NFI kits, and some do not address MHM at all. The lack of universal policy surrounding the implementation of MHM in a crisis has implications not only for women’s health and dignity but also for a country’s progress towards the related SDG targets.