Reusables for Refugees: An Update From AFRIpads

Reusables for Refugees: An Update From AFRIpads

Hey! It's Menstrual Hygiene Day 2019! We're writing today to update you on work by our friends at Afripads. Every purchase of a Lunapad results in a donation to AFRIpads from us, an initiative we call One4Her.

In AFRIpads' home country of Uganda, there has been a massive influx of refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan. According to UNHCR, there are an estimated 300,000 Congolese refugees now in Uganda, and a majority of them are girls or women. Although UNHCR requires menstruating folk to receive a disbursement of disposable pads and other basic hygiene supplies, a majority of these refugees report having no access to menstrual supplies, soap or underwear.

Having reliable access to period products is a game-changer. It allows a menstruating person to go to school and get a job. It allows them to live a life in their community. The education of girls is a key driver to lift communities out of poverty. Improved sanitation and hygiene deliver countless positive health outcomes. All this change is possible through reliable access to a menstrual pad. 

AFRIpads partnered with the UNHCR Sub-office Mbarara to start a three-month pilot program to study the suitability of introducing reusable pads to girls in a refugee context. Although Lunapads has donated to refugee programs for years, the ability to use reusables is extremely challenging in these emergency situations. To safely use cloth pads, you need to be able to wash them in clean water. 

Disposables, as we all know, have their downsides. They can only be used once, can be expensive or difficult to source, and generate plastic waste that clogs waterways and garbage dumps. To figure out a way to successfully integrate reusables for refugee communities could improve life for an entire community. 

AFRIpads developed an innovative program in partnership with UNHCR. Each pilot program participant was given a AFRIpads kit, which contains four pads and a carrying case. Each participant was given access to washing facilities at school, plus training on menstrual hygiene management on how to use their new pads and also on periods generally (shout out to empowering sex ed!).

Prior to the program launch, most participants reported that their major challenge was not having enough products. 20% even reported reusing disposables for lack of a better option. One of the most enduring logistical challenges of UNHCR is supplying timely disbursements of disposable period products, and that was reflected in the early surveys of participants. Participants also received three pairs of underwear to support using their cloth pads. 

Over three months, participants used their AFRIpads, received education and support and washed their pads at school or at alternative facilities. 99% of participants tried their pads, and the same percentage said they'd continue to use them. 71% reported having sufficient clean water to use their pads. 

Other benefits? Prior to adoption of AFRIpads, 73% of participants reported significant itching or burning due to the use of disposables - a number that dropped to 24%. The number of girls who reported missing school was halved. 97% of participants said they'd recommend their cloth pads to a friend.

AFRIpads should be congratulated for providing a preferred and effective solution for menstrual hygiene management. To read their full report, click here.

What's next? We're working with AFRIpads to see more experiments in reaching refugee populations. And as always, consider who might need a dignified period in your own sphere - it's a great time to donate to your local homeless shelter or to organizations working in refugee relief. To donate to Lunapads' Pads4Girls fund, click here, or simply make the switch to Lunapads. We'll take care of the rest. 

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