Improving menstrual hygiene management in emergencies

Organisation: IFRC

Partners: British Red Cross, Norwegian Red Cross, Netherlands Red Cross, AFRI Pads (U) Ltd

Location: Sudan/Somalia, Madagascar, Uganda

Type of grant: Core – development

Status: Completed

  • Credit: Corinne Ambler NZRC

  • Credit: Corinne Ambler, NZRC

  • 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

  • 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


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).

Challenge(s) addressed

Despite increasing attention to the MHM needs of adolescent girls and women and acknowledgement of the crucial role that it plays around issues such as dignity, gender-based violence, education and hygiene and health, MHM continues to be overlooked and not effectively or comprehensively addressed in post-conflict and disaster settings.

• Hygiene kits are generally designed for household level distribution with no adjustment for the number of menstruating females in each household.

• Personal dignity kits only include sanitary pads, which do not reflect the diversity of materials used for managing menstruation across different cultures and contexts, nor does it incorporate critical aspects of safe and appropriate means of disposal or hygienic care of reusable pads.

• Women with no other option often use old and dirty cloth to absorb their menstrual flow, leading to irritation and/or vaginal or urinary tract infections.

Innovation Factor

To date, no humanitarian agency has developed and field tested a comprehensive relief item specifically for menstrual hygiene management. The MHM kit enables safe and hygienic management of the menstrual flow. There are two type types of MHM kit developed – disposable and reusable.

Pioneering work to analyse and improve local procurement, pre-positioning and distribution of culturally appropriate hygiene and dignity related relief items is crucial and overdue.

Key Deliverables / Impact

• A key output will be the MHM Kit A (disposable pads) and Kit B (reusable pads) being adopted as a standard emergency humanitarian relief item, and included on the Red Cross/Red Crescent Emergency Relief Items Catalogue. This will be based on evidence following the trial of the menstrual hygiene management kits in 3 different emergency contexts in the Eastern Africa region.

• Improved knowledge and capacity to incorporate menstrual hygiene management into WASH emergency response activities will be achieved by the MHM curriculum being adapted to the RC/RC context and rolled out into national and regional level WASH trainings for emergency preparedness and response.

• Results and outcomes of this MHM operational research will be documented and shared with wider WASH partners through continuous monitoring, case studies and a final evaluation of the project.

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

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