Access to Menstrual Health Supplies during COVID-19: what have we learnt?
12th June 2020
COVID-19 has seriously compromised access to menstrual health materials.
From a supply perspective, the RHSC and our members face three main challenges: (1) a disrupted production of supplies, (2) many interruptions throughout the supply chains, and (3) delayed or failed product delivery. Production is disrupted due to reduced workforce at manufacturing plants because of social distancing requirements for factories; closure of factories; and the fact that production of personal protective equipment has taken priority for many small manufacturers. Supply chain interruptions are a result of grounded commercial flights; many ports not functioning at full capacity; and slots reallocated to emergency equipment shipments. The same disruptions have been observed at the country entry point: in countries where imports were/are restricted, it is challenging both for menstrual products and for raw materials for disposable pads. Road transport restrictions have constrained distribution in some countries, disrupting distribution at the last mile, as many retailers/distributors have paused normal retail operations. Lastly, product delivery is also often interrupted, when grocery and other shops are closed and delivery staff under lockdown. In countries where sanitary napkins are subsidized by the government, girls who would otherwise receive menstrual health products at school now do not because of school closures.
It is important to remember that many challenges existed before the COVID-19 crisis, in particular the difficulty to access menstrual products in rural areas. But the crisis has exacerbated these pre-existing challenges.
Furthermore, the current situation — and especially the lockdown measures — have huge economic impacts, and financial stress may lead families to prioritize other needs such as food or essential utility bills over purchasing menstrual health supplies.