Menstrual Hygiene Management in Emergencies

Over 26 million girls and women are displaced around the world, many of whom struggle to manage their monthly menstruation safely, comfortably and with dignity.  In many emergency contexts, menstruating girls and women face inadequate access to safe and private WASH facilities, and menstrual materials and supplies.  In addition, strong menstrual taboos may restrict their movements and behaviors, hindering their ability to attend school, wait in line for distributions, or go to the market.  

The GATE program supports a range of menstrual hygiene management (MHM) in emergencies projects around the world in partnership with cross-sectoral humanitarian partners, international agencies and researchers. 

The MHM in Emergencies Toolkit Project:

The MHM in Emergencies toolkit project, led by IRC and Columbia University and supported by Elhra's Research for Health in Humanitarian Crises, contributed to the evidence available on MHM in emergencies and developed an MHM in emergencies toolkit in partnership with the global humanitarian response community.  The toolkit provides practical guidance and tools for planning, implementing and monitoring MHM programming. English, Arabic and French versions are available below. 

Global Scoping Project on effective practices for menstrual waste disposal, waste management & laundering for displaced populations:

The toolkit project identified gaps in the evidence and practical learning on how a humanitarian response can best support girls and women with menstrual waste disposal, waste management and laundering of used menstrual materials and underwear.  In response, IRC and GATE, with support from USAID’s Office for Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), are working on a new initiative, in collaboration with the global humanitarian response community, that aims to document new approaches for addressing menstrual disposal, waste management, and laundering in a range of displacement contexts. The project began in August 2018, and includes assessments in 3-4 on-going emergencies, a desk review and a series of interviews with global humanitarian experts. Outcomes include the development of a compendium with improved guidance and publications that contribute to the evidence base. 

Addressing MHM During and Ebola Virus Disease Outbreak:

While conducting this research, we received several inquiries from emergency actors for guidance around addressing MHM during an Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak. In response, GATE has launched a new project exploring MHM considerations during an EVD outbreak at both the clinic and community levels. The project aims to develop a brief guidance note targeting emergency response actors that provides practical insights on incorporating MHM into EVD outbreak programs.  (More information)


MHM in Emergencies Resources:


Sommer, M., Schmitt, M., Ogello, T., Mathenge, P., Mark, M., Clatworthy, D., Khandakji, S., Ratnayake, R. (2018). "Pilot testing and evaluation of a toolkit for menstrual hygiene management in emergencies in three refugee camps in Northwest Tanzania." Journal for International Humanitarian Action, 3(1), 6. 

Sommer, M., Schmitt, M. L., Clatworthy, D., Bramucci, G., Wheeler, E., & Ratnayake, R. (2016). “What is the scope for addressing menstrual hygiene management in complex humanitarian emergencies? A global review.Waterlines, 35(3), 245-264. 

Schmitt, M. L., Clatworthy, D., Ratnayake, R., Klaesener-Metzner, N., Roesch, E., Wheeler, E., & Sommer, M. (2017). “Understanding the menstrual hygiene management challenges facing displaced girls and women: findings from qualitative assessments in Myanmar and Lebanon.” Conflict and Health, 11(1), 19.


Sommer, M. 'A Simple Way To Make Toilets Friendlier For Women in Refugee Camps.' (2019). NPR

Schmitt, M. 'Opinion: There's Nowhere Worse to Have Your Period Than A Refugee Camp.' (2019) Buzzfeed News. 

Sommer, M. “Why a monthly period is a especially hard for millions of women and girls around the world.” (2017). [Editorial] The Conversation.

Sommer, M. “The Syrian Refugee Struggle No One’s Talking About.” (2015). [Editorial] Ms. Magazine Blog. 


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