The ongoing Syrian conflict has displaced millions of people, leaving them with no choice but to live in dire conditions in refugee camps. They must survive without basic everyday essentials, such as food and water. More than 50% of these refugees are women, who experience periods and other natural life cycles just like other women across the world.
Women who are fleeing for their lives don’t stop to think about underwear and sanitary products. But dignity presents itself in the smallest of things – a toothbrush, toothpaste, bar of soap, sanitary pads and shampoo. Such small things go so far to improve a woman’s quality of life.
Lack of water, hygiene and sanitation facilities affect not only women in emergencies, but those living in communities all around the world. The implications of this issue are far reaching and can be deadly.
Lack of hygiene products forces girls to miss out on education
For girls, the absence of feminine hygiene products forces them to miss out on any vital education available to them. Without the means to manage their personal hygiene, girls are deprived of the opportunity to pursue their dreams. Some trade sex for the money to buy hygiene products, risking ostracisation and pregnancy. Others don’t attend school on the days of their periods to avoid the shame and embarassment of leakages. Those that do attend are less likely to participate.
Lack of hygiene products can lead to health complications
Across the world, women who can’t afford proper menstrual hygiene products seek to use whatever is available as a substitute. In Bangladesh, millions of women working in the garment industry use spare rags, often freshly dyed and chemically charged. In rural communities across Africa, girls using leaves or rags are susceptible to infections and even infertility.
Lack of hygiene products puts girls at risk of sexual assault and human trafficking
Without sanitation faciltiies and menstrual hygiene products, women and girls often use the cover of darkness to deal with their periods and other hygiene needs. In some communities where the stigma of menstruation is particulalry great, women and girls go deep into forests to bury used menstrual products. Sexual predators often take advantage of these situations and instances of sexual assault and rape are high. In refugee camps, human traffickers abduct women and girls during the night, and those who leave their shelters are at far greater risk.
As part of our efforts to help and restore dignity to women and assist in the maintenance of their basic life, we worked with on-the-ground partners to distribute essential hygiene items to these women living in camps in Lebanon and Syria. Last year we distributed 450 kits, and this year through your generous donations, we’re set to deliver a further 700 packs.
The Dignity Kits contained everything these women need to manage their periods in a sanitary and hygienic manner. They included a menstrual cup or pack of sanitary towels, soap, shampoo and toothpaste.