Menstruation in Emergencies
At the end of 2022, the number of displaced people globally increased to over 108 million people. About half of all displaced populations (est. 54 million) are girls and women, 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, culturally appropriate menstrual materials and supplies and menstrual health and hygiene information. The GATE program supports a range of menstrual hygiene management (MHM) in emergencies projects globally in partnership with humanitarian partners, international agencies and researchers.
This includes the following three main research and practice initiatives:
The MHM in Emergencies toolkit project, led by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and Columbia University, was supported by Elhra's Research for Health in Humanitarian Crises. This research project 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.
- MHM in Emergencies: The Full Guide (PDF)
- MHM in Emergencies: The Mini Guide (PDF)
- Just the Facts: Understanding Menstruation Infographic (PDF)
- Challenges and Responses for MHM in Emergencies Infographic (PDF)
- MHM Staff Training Materials
- Research Snapshot
- 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.
- 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., 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. '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.
This project was a collaboration with the IRC and the global humanitarian response community, with support from USAID’s Office for Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA). The project identified new approaches for addressing menstrual disposal, waste management, and laundering challenges in a range of displacement contexts. This led to the development of a guidance compendium, which addresses gaps identified in the MHM in Emergencies Toolkit. The compendium includes practical guidance in addition to a series of case studies highlighting innovations currently being piloted in emergencies globally.
- Menstrual Disposal, Waste Management & Laundering (PDF)
- Monitoring MHM Programming in Emergencies: A Rapid Assessment Tool (PDF)
- Key Components of a Female-Friendly Toilet
- Menstrual Washing, Drying & Storage Needs of Displaced Girls and Women
- Menstrual Disposal: Four Key Elements
- Schmitt, M.L., Gruer, C., Clatworthy, D., Kimonye, C., Peter, D.E., Sommer, M. (2022). "Menstrual material maintenance, disposal and laundering challenges among displaced girls and women in Northeast Nigeria" Journal of Water, Sanitation & Hygiene for Development.
- Schmitt, M.L., Wood, O.R., Clatworthy, D. Rashid, S., Sommer, M. (2021). "Innovative strategies for providing menstruation-supportive water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities: learning from refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh" Conflict and Health, 15(10).
- Sommer, M. 'A Simple Way To Make Toilets Friendlier For Women in Refugee Camps.' (2019). NPR.
This project, funded by the Waterloo Foundation, examined the key MHM considerations required during an Ebola outbreak, including at both the health system and community levels. The qualitative assessment with global experts informed the development of brief guidance note targeting emergency response actors that provides practical insights on incorporating MHM into Ebola outbreak response. (More information)
- Guidance Note: Integrating Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) into Ebola Response
- Available in French (translated with generous support from the Osprey Foundation)