KAMPALA – United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Uganda has extended a donation of Menstrual Health Management commodities (Reusable Sanitary Towels) to her sister agency, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees – UNHCR as a contribution towards supporting menstrual health among girls and mothers in refugee hosting districts.
The consignment of 39,215 reusable sanitary pads worth USD 200,000 (UGX 720,000,000) was handed to Ms. Enid Ochieng, Senior Protection Officer at UNHCR by UNFPA Deputy Representative Mr Daniel Alemu at the UNFPA Uganda office on Friday.
Mr Alemu noted that they consider the needs of menstruating women and girls as a fundamental right issue and are committed to creating a world where no woman or girl is prevented from accomplishing their potential due to menstrual period.
“It is therefore our hope that this contribution will fill a gap in the provision of menstrual health hygiene commodities in refugee hosting districts.”
He revealed that in their 2022 Rapid Needs Assessment in 10 refugee-hosting districts covering 10 settlements to determine the most urgent hygiene needs for young adolescent girls and women of reproductive age in a humanitarian setting, the need for menstrual hygiene items ranked highly in position number 2 and 3.
“To a greater extent, the Rapid Needs Assessment suggested the need to focus on resilience building for Persons of Concern (POC), to enable them meet their other needs including access to sanitary towels. In that assessment, respondents included other items such as soap and underwear, which underscores the need for income for persons of concerns in order to expand their choices and therefore their rights,” he said.
Mr Alemu says the displacement further robs women and girls their dignity when they have difficulty managing their periods which exacerbates their vulnerability.
According to him, in Uganda, lack of access to sanitary pads is as one of the drivers of school absenteeism and consequent dropout, exposing girls to teenage pregnancy and early marriage.
“Women and girls may be excluded from daily activities because of stigma, shame or discrimination or because they are considered unclean. In others, menarche may lead to child marriage or sexual violence because it signals a girl is ready for motherhood or sexual activity.”
“Girls may also miss school because they are in pain or their schools lack adequate sanitary facilities. Some girls simply do not understand what is happening to their bodies,” he said.
He reminded that ensuring teenage girls have access to menstrual hygiene products plays an important role in preventing SGBV and HIV infection as oftentimes girls are victimized by men who offer to provide or fund these necessities.
Ms. Ochieng commended UNFPA gesture, noting that they (UNHCR) are facing serious funding challenges.
“When we noted that we were not going to be able to provide these very important items to our girls and women in the settlements, we call upon all the agencies and the donors to come to our aid.”
“The items would really go a long way in changing the lives of girls and women in the settlements, noting that the impact of not having these, it really has a negative impact on our girls,” she added.
Ms. Ochieng who represented UNHCR Deputy Representative Jason Alan Hepps says that lack of menstrual kits often leads girls to drop out of school and some of them resort to risky behaviors in order to attain them.
She urged all parties and all donors and agencies to work together to ensure that no girl would be without any dignity kits because it’s a very important item.
Uganda has a refugee population of about 1.5 million people, living in 14 refugee hosting locations including Kampala.
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