Improving MHM action in emergencies: developing and piloting practical tools

IFRC were awarded a HIF grant in 2013 to development of menstrual hygiene management (MHM) kits as a culturally appropriate and effective relief item for emergencies, complemented by improvement and scale-up of training and participatory hygiene promotion tools related to MHM. Through evidence based trials, the appropriateness, acceptability and value of MHM kits (both disposable and reusable types) will be determined. A key outcome will be acceptance of the MHM kits as a standard humanitarian relief item. This could support the broader WASH sector to make decisions regarding the inclusion of appropriate MHM items into relief non food items (NFIs).

IFRC’s ongoing project aims to improve the dignity and health of women and girls in humanitarian contexts through advocacy, dissemination of best practices and lessons learnt, and development of specific guidance and tools to support effective Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) action. Women and girls have menstrual hygiene needs from day 1 of a disaster or emergency, and MHM is not something that can wait or only be addressed once the humanitarian situation is ‘more stable’.

So, what are the main activities and achievements in recent months?

The pilot version of IFRC’s MHM Guidelines and Tools have been finalised. These resources have been adapted for the Red Cross Red Crescent Context. In August, the Tools were piloted in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh as part of the Rohingya population movement operation.

Open waste pit (which is periodically burnt) behind a block of latrines and bathing facilities in Cox’s Bazar (Camp 19), Bangladesh. Credit: Swedish Red Cross/Chelsea Giles-Hansen (Click for larger image)

Minimum checklists for female-friendly WASH facilities – including latrines, bathing areas and disposal facilities (pictured on the left) – were trialled in Cox’s Bazar as tools for monitoring and assessment. A number of ‘easy-win’ adaptations to facilities were identified, for example hooks, and racks or shelves for drying, so that women and girls can more easily manage their menstruation. Bangladesh Red Crescent Society together with Danish Red Cross have constructed a pilot latrine with a menstrual waste collection system (pictured below).

Communal latrine with menstrual waste collection system. The pipe on the back wall of the latrine connects to a sealed pit outside. Cox’s Bazar (Camp 19), Bangladesh. Credit: Swedish Red Cross/Chelsea Giles-Hansen (Click for larger image)

Valuable feedback was collected to improve the usefulness of the guidelines and tools, including more detailed focus group discussions guides for post-distribution monitoring, recommendations to avoid overlap of MHM items in different types of kits, and minimum content for menstrual hygiene (including in dignity kits that aim to support MHM).

A tool on using Cash assistance (grant or voucher) for menstrual hygiene has been developed as well, together with the IFRC global Cash team.

Generic Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials that include basic information on menstruation, staying healthy, the female reproductive process, and how to use, wash, dry and dispose of different types of menstrual materials have been developed. The idea is that these materials can be easily translated and adapted to specific contexts – or included in MHM kits as immediate relief items until more locally specific materials are developed.

What is planned for the rest of 2018?

A number of exciting events and activities are planned in coming months:

  • IFRC and the Lebanese Red Cross will host a global MHM workshop in Beirut from 22nd to 24th October. The workshop will provide a platform for exchanging lessons learned and best practices between National Societies, IFRC and external practitioners from MHM experiences in humanitarian and longer-term development programming. Another important aim is to strengthen cross-sectoral working for comprehensive MHM actions within the Red Cross Red Crescent, including ‘who’ does ‘what’ and how we can work better together.
  • The global MHM Community of Practice is active with many internal and external partners exchanging resources, experiences and connecting to one another. Everyone is welcome to join!
  • The second video for MHM advocacy and training will be finalised in coming weeks, along with a case study highlighting lessons learnt from IFRC’s operational research on MHM in East Africa and recommendations for future operations.

The IFRC teams looks forward to sharing and launching all these resources at the upcoming global workshop, and to continue working towards more effective, accountable menstrual hygiene support for women and girls in humanitarian contexts.

Elrha is a registered charity in England and Wales (1177110).

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