Whether it be a tornado, an earthquake, or a hurricane, women, in particular, are more vulnerable when it comes to natural disasters; yet issues relating to their specific needs tend to be overlooked or excluded as a disaster unfolds. Natural disasters exacerbate existing inequalities that exist in the world. From preparation, to impact, and the following relief efforts, every stage of natural disasters reinforces race, class, and gender inequalities.
For women and girls, the differentiated impact of natural disasters is most commonly seen in the lack of menstrual hygiene focused relief efforts.
During natural disasters, national response efforts led by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the American Red Cross address necessities like shelter, environmental response and safety, search and rescue, protection, public health, and emergency medical services. Menstrual Hygiene is often overlooked as a neglected aspect of hygiene and emotional wellbeing, thus forcing women and girls to have to deal with an additional crisis every month.
Relief efforts after a natural disaster can last anywhere from a few weeks to few months and in extreme cases, years. The average woman's menstrual cycle is 28 days long, and the average period lasts for three to seven days. This means that it is highly likely that a woman or girl impacted by a natural disaster will have to experience navigating the additional crisis of menstruating, as a means to survival.
Shelter, sanitation, and access to clean water are all essential elements to having a healthy menstrual cycle. For example, the average time for a sanitary pad to be changed is every 4 – 6 hours (tampons are even shorter at 2- 4 hours). Once menstrual blood has left the body, it gets contaminated with other organisms within the body. The dampness from the moisture of the blood and other bodily fluids, such as sweat, along with the darkness creates a perfect opportunity for bacteria to multiply and lead to conditions like urinary tract infections, vaginal infections and Toxic Shock Syndrome ( a condition where bacteria infiltrate the body leading to sever infection that can send the body into shock and without immediate medical treatment can lead to death). The ability to be able to have a clean, dry, sanitary space to regularly change a pad or tampon is a luxury, that many are not afford during and immediately following natural disasters.
How Can I Help? Due to the lack of visibility and support in regard to menstrual hygiene management, it is often left up to local organizations, and the community to prioritize the need of sanitary products to those affected. This is why, we are proud to announce that Free Flow will be giving 100% of donations collected during the month of October, to the victims of Hurricane Florence. We will be collecting pads, tampons, wipes, and clean packed underwear at various donations days, events, via mail, and through our Amazon Wishlist.