COVID- 19 pandemic has impacted each and every sector of human life around in the world. In response to the Nepalese contest, in March 2020 Nepal government has ordered a nationwide lockdown as emergency measure to prevent spreading of the infection. Almost every household, community, organization, sector and nation has been facing devastating impacts on health, economy, food security and livelihood. Public activities are discouraged, families are largely restricted to their homes, all schools are closed and children are out of school across the country.
There are, and will continue to be, clear negative effects of COVID-19 on children’s education, social life, physical and mental health. In such critical condition, it is difficult to manage menstrual hygiene properly.
Sheila, who’s working with Helpcode in Nepal by 10 years, reported that in regular school time, adolescent girls have been received sanitary pad in their own schools but nowadays every student have been out of school and stay at home.
“In settings where we are working with the poorest rural girls, they commonly use washable traditional type of sanitary pad. The reason is financial stress may lead to families to prioritize other needs such as food or essential utility bills over purchasing menstrual hygiene materials. On the other hand, they do not have excess to buy sanitary pad in their village. In the urban area, shops are closed since 2 months ago, so girls are facing problem to buy hygiene products. In rural area there are no shops where they can buy sanitary pad to manage their menstrual hygiene. Helpcode had provided hygiene kit to 120 adolescent girls of targeted schools before the lockdown. In this critical days those girls may have using the received readymade pad.
I have been contacted to respective focal teachers and principals in weekly basis. Actually they are not well informed about how girls are managing their self-care and hygiene on monthly cycle because in the rural scenario it’s the matter of shame. Even teacher may feel hesitate to ask about the sanitary pad using condition of their girl’s students at the time they are staying at home with their parents. They just to know that they are using cotton or old clothes folding pads for their menstrual hygiene management because most of the family (female) members have habit to use the traditional pad.”
Helpcode is mitigating the impacts of COVID-19 and menstrual health and hygiene for girls and women in communities by providing menstrual materials to avoid disruption of access to menstrual hygiene materials, particularly disposable menstrual hygiene materials that require monthly replenishment. In many remote area shops went out-of-stock or increased price as a result of panic buying, supply chain disruptions in supply chains due to stay-at home orders or simply increased demand due to recommendations to keep “extra” essential supplies on hand.
The COVID-19 pandemic will have secondary impacts on girls’ and women’s ability to manage their menstruation and their health. The impacts will vary based on the country context and ability to respond through social protection and health systems. Similarly, the most affected will be the poorest and most vulnerable to economic and social shocks. Certain occupations will bring greater vulnerability.
The COVID19 pandemic is putting at risk the smooth progress the rural community in gender inequality, discriminatory social norms, cultural taboos, poverty and lack of basic services.
Thanks to the HAPPY PERIOD project, we were able to support Nepali adolescent girls to be more informed about their body, to improve their hygiene management and to have access to menstrual hygiene products for free.