During a recent visit to the New Kichigoro, Durumi, and Kamajiji internally displaced (IDP) camps in Abuja, Prof. Cheluchi Onyemelukwe, founder of Centre for Health, Ethics, Law, and Development (CHELD), a non-Governmental Organisation, disclosed the NGO’s support to providing reusable pads for internally displaced women and girls. This initiative aims to improve their quality of life and ensure sustainable menstruation hygiene for the displaced. Prof. Onyemelukwe further mentioned that the NGO had embarked on a journey across Abuja, showing their unwavering support for individuals seeking comfort within IDP camps.
According to her, the provided training would contribute to the empowerment of internally displaced women and girls in terms of their sexual reproductive rights, and also lower the risks they face related to diseases and illnesses. She emphasized their dedication to uplifting the well-being of families residing in the IDP camps, which sadly neglected and overlooked by the authorities responsible. We strive to bridge this void in their existence and instill in them the understanding that society still extends its compassion towards them. With that purpose in mind, the NGO is initiating several campaigns aimed at promoting menstrual hygiene, she added.
37m females in Nigeria struggle to procure hygiene products.
These campaigns aimed at imparting knowledge and guidance to empower young women about managing their menstrual cycles in an hygienic way, while also equipping them with the skills to produce their own eco-friendly, cost-free sanitary pads. This will eventually dissuade them from the use of hazardous materials during this time. Proficient mentors specializing in healthcare, legalities, and civil rights are readily available to offer guidance and educational programs, thereby fostering self-assurance and enhancing their understanding of hygiene practices. This is necessary because Nigerian IDP camps, with their lack of cleanliness and poor hygiene conditions, place women at risk of contracting several illnesses.
Prof. Onyemelukwe expressed deep concern over the dire situation at New Kichigoro, where toilets remained utterly non-functional, leaving the people to resort to open defecation practice. She further observed that the community lacked access to basic healthcare services as the provisional clinic had fallen into disuse. These distressing circumstances served as a harsh reminder that over 37 million females in Nigeria struggle to procure menstrual hygiene products due to financial constraints. In the midst of a humanitarian crisis in Borno State, women and girls face formidable obstacles when it comes to accessing menstrual products.
Utilizing unsanitary choices poses a threat to mental health.
For a decade now, Nigeria has faced an issue of exorbitant prices for sanitary pads, particularly those that are imported, which are the favoured choice among women during their periods. Meanwhile, the lack of proper knowledge and inadequate menstrual hygiene management can impact the well-being and dignity of girls. Making ill-informed decisions and engaging in poorly implemented practices can have dire long-term consequences on their reproductive health. Utilizing unsanitary choices not only jeopardizes the physical well-being of Nigerian girls, but also poses a threat to their mental health as they may encounter heightened levels of anxiety when approaching their menstrual period.
In rural Nigeria, a pack of sanitary pads comes with a hefty price tag of 500 Naira, equivalent to a meal’s cost for impoverished families. Sadly, in many male-dominated households, providing essential products for the women and girls is often deemed unaffordable. As a consequence, women and girls in these areas have to resort to resourcefulness, utilizing unconventional items like old rags, magazines, leaves, and even feathers. The inadequate knowledge and understanding about puberty, menstruation, and reproductive health extensively in these rural areas is responsible for this situation.
Lack of access to products forces menstruating girls out of school.
Nevertheless, the utilization of unhygienic products during menstrual cycles increases girls’ vulnerability to infections and potentially jeopardizes their fertility in the long run. Apart from the health complications, the lack and limited access to menstrual products force menstruating girls out of school, resulting in a detrimental effect on their fundamental right to education. A survey conducted by Health Aid For All Initiative (HAFAI), at two secondary schools in Abuja’s rural communities found that before the distribution of menstrual kits, girls’ absence rates stood at 24%, but within three months after kit distribution, this figure fell to 8%. This indicates that girls miss school due to lack of access to sanitary protection.