Periods in humanitarian disasters
Putting menstrual health at the heart of emergency response
Women and girls are particularly vulnerable in emergencies, disasters and conflict zones.
ActionAid ensures that women are at the heart of our emergency response work, because they are amongst the first reponders to a crisis, and bring vital skills, resources and experience.
Because our emergency work is led by women, they ensure that the needs of women refugees and other vulnerable groups are met. That is why ActionAid recognises that access to clean and safe menstrual products is not a ‘nice-to-have’.
Period poverty and refugees
Roya, 21, arrived at our Women Friendly Space in Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesvos after a harrowing journey from Afghanistan. She had travelled with her family, including her two young sons Ali Reza and Sarwas, her sister and her mother.
“It was definitely harder for the women on the journey," said Roya.
"My mother got her period on the journey and she had nothing with her. She had to rip a dirty piece from her dress and use that. She also found some leaves to use.
"In ActionAid’s Women Friendly Space they gave us sanitary towels and some other things."
How ActionAid distributes menstrual products in an emergency
We have distributed menstrual products in crises and disasters as wide-ranging as the Nepal earthquakes of 2015, in Greece at the height of the refugee crisis in 2015-2016, in Haiti after Hurricane Matthew in 2016, and in East Africa during the food crisis of 2017.
They are often distributed at our Women Friendly Spaces, which we set up in the aftermath of disasters to provide a safe space for refugee women and girls who may be at risk of violence.
Menstrual products for climate refugees
15-year-old Hibaq has been living in a camp for displaced people in Somaliland since 2017, when devastating droughts meant her family lost their entire livelihood.
Like many women and girls, Hibaq struggled to manage her periods due to living conditions in the camp. There are no private toilets for women, and nowhere to wash clothes and underwear.
ActionAid have been distributing hygiene kits in the camp, containing essentials like sanitary pads, soap and underwear. This means that women and girls like Hibaq can still manage their periods safely, and with dignity.
Page updated 30 January 2023