Menstrual Health Concerns During The Pandemic

For millions Pandemic of girls and women in India, the coronavirus lockdown impacts access to menstrual hygiene products and the ability to maintain hygiene during periods with dignity.

The past decade has seen efforts by the government of India and NGOs in creating greater awareness about menstrual hygiene and safe practices, at both, urban and rural levels. Cost barriers have been mitigated with the employment of low-cost variants more widely available through local production, free distribution, and subsidized prices.


Starting March 24, 2020, access to these essential items was sheared for millions in the country for the duration of the lockdown. Production and distribution of sanitary pads were either stopped or slowed down significantly. It wasn’t until March 30 that sanitary pads were included as essential items eligible for supply chain operations, thus leading to the stock-out of such products in some locations.

Until supply chains are restored Pandemic fully, females with limited mobility to purchase sanitary pads are left without a choice. Without workers and restricted movement of goods and raw materials, Production of sanitary products was severely affected.

Girls and women dependent on free or subsidized supplies from schools, SHGs & Anganwadi now find themselves cut off for at least a month, if not longer.

With low-income households struggling to purchase enough pads for regular users in the family, affordability comes to the forefront again. Paucity of sanitary pads may unreasonably escalate prices in some areas, and as a consequence, keep these products out of reach for those in need.

In relief camps and shelters where basic sustenance is the primary concern, and in quarantine facilities where testing kits and essential medicines are the necessity, menstrual products for women are not considered an essential item.

Menstrual-health-NewsORB360 Pandemic

Women and girls may end up using their menstrual products for longer than recommended, or turn to unhygienic alternatives such as old cloth or rags. Limited availability of menstrual hygiene products and the inability to maintain hygiene can adversely affect their health. Poor and opulent women alike, express apprehension over insufficient supplies for themselves and female Pandemic family members.

Irrespective of what is being used, changing menstrual products regularly, disposing of used materials, washing reusable cloth pads, and cleaning the body, is now more challenging than usual. Social distancing measures and mobility restrictions make it difficult for girls and women to use toilets as frequently as they need to during their period in slums, where many are dependent on community toilets.

An additional impediment could be the procurement of additional water for washing related needs during menstruation may be a barrier in rural areas. Privacy to change materials frequently and to discard them is encroached upon for urban and rural residents alike.

For female migrants on the road, Pandemic managing periods without access to any type of amenity is an incomprehensible quandary.

Menstrual materials, if worn for longer than they should be, simply to extend the availability of limited stock to cope with restricted mobility, could increase the risk of reproductive tract infections (RTI). While a good alternative, reusable cloth pads may not be washed and dried thoroughly due to scarcity of water and privacy, posing additional risks for infections.

Menstrual-health-NewsORB360 Pandemic

RTI symptoms resulting from poor menstrual hygiene are likely to go unaddressed with non-essential health services curtailed and frontline health workers focused on the pandemic response activities. That being the case, action for ensuring access to safe menstrual products and information on menstrual hygiene is crucial.

As noted by The Wire, four simple and essential sets of actions can Pandemic enable women and girls to manage their periods in a hygienic manner within their constrained settings:

Firstly, access to essential menstrual products must be released through private and public sector channels. Large scale manufacturers must facilitate supply to stores, equitably across geographies, and ensure that retail prices are within MRP limits.

Secondly, for girls and women who are unable to access disposable sanitary pads, information on making, using, and maintaining homemade cloth pads safely is critical and should be disseminated through various government and non-government outlets.

Thirdly, sanitary pads and underwear must be made available in isolation facilities. Separate, safe toilets for women in these facilities, with sufficient water must be established. Dustbins for immediate disposal and the subsequent management of menstrual waste from the facilities are also necessary.

Lastly, information on the hygienic use of disposable and reusable menstrual products is imperative. Guidance on storing water for the maintenance of personal hygiene and maintenance of both disposable and reusable products is essential.

The reproductive health and rights of females are often neglected Pandemic and, worse, threatened in times of crisis. Indian policymakers have made important footfalls in ensuring safe and dignified menstruation for women. The need to continue their efforts at this time is vital to help minimize the adverse health impact of poor menstrual hygiene for millions in the country.

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