Tasks govt on adequate attention to vulnerable groups
By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
As the world marks Menstrual Hygiene Day, an international charity organization, WaterAid Nigeria, Thursday, disclosed that 25 per cent of Nigerian women lack access to sanitation facilities.
This was made known in a statement signed by Communications and Media Manager, WaterAid Nigeria, Oluseyi Abdulmalik, where the organization tasked government at all levels in the country on adequate water and sanitation provision for women and girls amid the raging Coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic.
The statement reads in part, “Every day, approximately 800 million women and girls are on their periods, yet one-third of this population do not have access to clean water, female-friendly, decent and private toilets, hygiene facilities and sanitary materials to manage menstruation with dignity.
“Sadly, a lack of access to these essentials results in poor menstrual hygiene practices among women and girls, keeping from reaching their full potential.
“This dire situation is further compounded by the taboo and stigma surrounding talking about periods which holds women and girls back from being able to ask for the facilities and support they need – including decent, private toilets with water and soap – to deal with their menstruation with dignity and comfort.
“Inadequate Water, sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) facilities in public places, such as schools, workplaces and healthcare facilities pose a major obstacle for women and girls, making it more difficult to manage their periods hygienically and with dignity.
“Current statistics reveals 25 per cent of women in Nigeria lack adequate access to sanitation facilities that allows for privacy for defecation and Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM).
“Also, according to the United Nations, one in ten girls in sub-Saharan Africa misses school during their menstrual cycle, adding up to as much as 20 per cent of the school year.
“Even in the best of times, gender inequality, discriminatory social norms, cultural taboos, poverty and lack of basic services often cause menstrual health and hygiene needs to go unmet, particularly for the poorest and most vulnerable in the society. In emergencies, these deprivations can be exacerbated.
“During the pandemic, some shared or public toilets have closed or not been disinfected regularly, resulting in safety risks for those who rely on these facilities. Others have found it harder to get water at a time when households need to wash their hands more regularly and may not have sufficient water for menstrual needs.
“The result is far-reaching negative impacts on the lives of women and girls: restricting mobility, freedom and choices; reducing participation in school, work and community life; compromising safety; and causing stress and anxiety.”
According to WaterAid, globally, women make up 70 per cent of the health workforce and are more likely to be front-line health workers, especially nurses, midwives, and community health workers.
“Poor Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) infrastructure in healthcare facilities means female health workers and patients, including those in isolation, testing, and treatment centres, cannot manage their menstruation adequately.
“This compromises not only their health and dignity but also the ability of the health system to deliver quality and effective care. Furthermore, the lockdown situation intensifies the impact of household-level taboos and stigma on women and girls, making it more difficult to manage periods without shame and discomfort in often confined spaces”, the statement pointed out.
Also, the statement quoted the Country Director, WaterAid Nigeria, Evelyn Mere, saying that, “The COVID-19 pandemic although a global problem, affects women and girls disproportionately. The economic impact of COVID-19 forces women and girls to prioritise other essential needs over sanitary menstrual products, thereby increasing period poverty.
“Poor water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities in homes, communities, and healthcare centres mean millions of girls and women, female health workers, and patients are unable to manage their menstruation with dignity. This should not be normal.
“As governments across the world work round the clock to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, attentions have rightly been focused on vital life-saving measures such as health care and the provision of personal protective equipment. However, periods do not stop during pandemics.
“Disrupted water and sanitation services and supply chains for period products mean many people are finding it much more difficult to access everything they need to manage their periods.
“This combined with a lack of privacy under lockdown and the closure of services at schools, health centres, and communities that provide menstrual health products, information and help tackle menstrual stigma, risk halting or even reversing the enormous progress that has been made towards better menstrual health globally.
“As we emerge from lockdown restrictions and develop long-term solutions to the crisis, now is the opportunity for the government at all levels to prioritise the provision of clean water, good sanitation, and hygiene – not only critical in the fight against coronavirus but also essential for women and girls to manage their periods.”
Meanwhile, the organization tasked the government on adequate attention given to vulnerable groups which include women and girls who are mostly not privileged and buoyant to have access to water and hygiene infrastructure.
“We are calling on the government of Nigeria to help unlock the potential of women and girls by increasing access to clean water, decent toilets, and good hygiene in homes, communities, schools, public places, and healthcare facilities. Menstruation is a human rights issue and when women and girls cannot manage their periods, other rights such as to water and sanitation, health, education, and dignity, are being violated.
“WaterAid is continuing its work throughout the pandemic to provide clean water, decent toilets, and good hygiene to people living in poverty, including helping “vulnerable people and communities receive important information around how to manage periods hygienically while dispelling taboos around menstruation”, it stressed.