Chelsea Giles-Hansen MPH
Experiences from East Africa and lessons in addressing the menstrual hygiene needs of women and girls
This practice paper outlines key results from research conducted by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in East Africa from 2012 to 2016. Implemented in Burundi, Uganda, Somaliland, and Madagascar, the work aimed to better understand the menstrual hygiene management (MHM) needs of women and girls and the challenges they face with menstruation in humanitarian contexts. Based on a participatory consultation with women and girls, three types of ‘MHM kit’ were designed and tested to generate evidence on the appropriateness, acceptability, and value of the kits as a relief item. Results showed improvements in dignity, health, and knowledge after the distribution of MHM kits and promotion of menstrual hygiene. Findings highlighted the importance of appropriate facilities, including safe, private spaces for washing, changing, and drying pads. Key lessons and recommendations for future MHM programming include: distribute sanitary items together with supportive items (for washing, drying, and disposal); distribution must come with information and a demonstration on use and care; involve men and boys from the beginning; build confidence and capacity of male and female staff and volunteers; and link with sexual and reproductive health service providers.