Building a Cross-Sectoral Toolkit and Research Foundation for the Integration of Menstrual Hygiene Management into Emergency Response

Grant awarded: £497,568

Lead organisation: International Rescue Committee

Partnering organisations: Columbia University, Mailman School of Public Health

Project length: 2015-2017

Study locations: Formative assessments in Myanmar and Lebanon, pilot in North West Tanzania.

Principal Investigator: Dr Marni Sommer

  • A woman who has been living in a camp on the outskirts of Goma for two months is ecstatic when she receives her dignity kit today.


Women and girls displaced by conflict or disaster face a host of difficulties. Menstruation is hard to cope with in crisis settings, and is an issue that has been neglected by emergency responders in the past. In addition to hygiene materials, privacy, sanitation facilities, waste disposal, information and even access to water is often in short supply. Delivery and phasing of these components is critical, with cross-sectoral coordination needed so that women and girls can manage menses safely, with privacy and dignity.

In this project, a cross-sectoral team of researchers and humanitarian responders will explore and analyse girls’ and women’s priority menstrual hygiene needs in emergencies, and develop a streamlined toolkit to guide humanitarian response. Acknowledging that approaches to managing menstruation vary greatly across cultures and in different settings, the research will be carried out in multiple countries, and the toolkit will be tested and piloted to ensure that it can be applied in a variety of contexts.

Expected outcomes:

The main outcome of the proposed research will be a toolkit to guide emergency and humanitarian responders to effectively provide support to women and girls in crisis settings. The toolkit will also include improved tools for measuring the effectiveness and reach of the intervention.

In the longer term, the project will improve displaced girls’ and women’s abilities to practice MHM in safety and dignity, and therefore improve their physical wellbeing and reduce anxiety and stress around the ability to manage menses in a displaced context. In turn, this will contribute to the improvement of girls’ and women’s ability to conduct activities of daily living that are critical to their health and wellbeing, including pursuing education, income generating activities, and fetching food and water.

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

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