BHUBANESWAR: Amid the controversial remark of a bureaucrat in Bihar on the demand by a girl for sanitary pads, a recent study by a group of public health experts revealed around 34 per cent (pc) women in the country are victims of poor menstrual hygiene management (MHM).
The researchers from the Bhubaneswar-based Indian Institute of Public Health (IIPH), Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), Regional Medical Research Centre (RMRC) and UNICEF found the non-availability of MHM products and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services during emergencies like natural calamities and pandemics continue to be a major concern.
They had conducted a systematic review to examine, analyse and describe the existing evidence related to the challenges experienced by women and girls in practising MHM during humanitarian crises and public health emergencies.
As per the study, the pooled prevalence of lack of access to sanitary pads during humanitarian crisis was 34 pc and the prevalence of safe and proper sanitary pad disposal practices ranged from 11 pc to 85 per cent, with a pooled prevalence of 54 pc in the low and middle income countries, including India.
Additional Professor of IIPH Bhuputra Panda said poor menstrual hygiene management is linked to adverse health and quality of life, particularly during emergencies. Although in recent times emphasis is being laid upon MHM during humanitarian crises, the essential components of complete MHM during an emergency remain out of focus, he said.
In emergencies, it has been found that MHM products and WASH facilities are mostly unavailable. Where available, privacy and security has been identified as a common barrier as the shelters are not women-friendly, impeding the fundamental rights of women. Apart from the issues of quality and accessibility, there is absence of changing rooms, Panda pointed out.
Since there is insufficient data to guide policymakers and programme managers about context-specific interventions, the IIPH is drafting a comprehensive policy on MHM for the Odisha government. The policy will be handed over to the government after a consultation with stakeholders.
“We are also conducting a household survey in Bhadrak, Balangir and Koraput districts on the hygienic methods being used. As there is no State specific data, the sample survey will help formulate the policy and government can initiate measures,” he added.
The NFHS V conducted during 2019-21, had found the share of women aged 15-24 years using hygienic methods of protection during their menstrual period to be around 77.3 pc in the country and 81.5 pc in Odisha. Locally prepared napkins, sanitary napkins, tampons, and menstrual cups are considered to be hygienic methods of protection.