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Improving menstrual hygiene management in emergency contexts: literature review of current perspectives

Authors VanLeeuwen C, Torondel B

Received 7 November 2017

Accepted for publication 15 January 2018

Published 10 April 2018 Volume 2018:10 Pages 169—186


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Professor Elie Al-Chaer

Crystal VanLeeuwen, Belen Torondel

Department of Disease Control, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK

Abstract: Management of menstruation in contexts of humanitarian emergencies can be challenging. A lack of empirical research about effective interventions which improve menstrual hygiene management (MHM) among female populations in humanitarian emergencies and a lack of clarity about which sectors within a humanitarian response should deliver MHM interventions can both be attributable to the lack of clear guidance on design and delivery of culturally appropriate MHM intervention in settings of humanitarian emergencies. The objective of this review was to collate, summarize, and appraise existing peer-reviewed and gray literature that describes the current scenario of MHM in emergency contexts in order to describe the breadth and depth of current policies, guidelines, empirical research, and humanitarian aid activities addressing populations’ menstrual needs. A structured-search strategy was conducted for peer-reviewed and gray literature to identify studies, published reports, guidelines, and policy papers related to menstrual response in emergency humanitarian contexts. Of the 51 articles included in the review, 16 were peer-reviewed papers and 35 were gray literature. Most of the literature agreed that hardware interventions should focus on the supply of adequate material (not only absorbent material but also other supportive material) and adequate sanitation facilities, with access to water and private space for washing, changing, drying, and disposing menstrual materials. Software interventions should focus on education in the usage of materials to manage menstruation hygienically and education about the female body’s biological processes. There was clear agreement that the needs of the target population should be assessed before designing any intervention. Although there is insight about which factors should be included in an effective menstrual hygiene intervention, there is insufficient empirical evidence to establish which interventions are most effective in humanitarian emergencies and which sectors should be responsible for the coordination and implementation of such. Increased monitoring and evaluation studies of interventions should be completed and publicly shared, in order to feed evidence-based guidelines in the humanitarian sector.

Keywords: menstrual hygiene, emergency, guidelines, evidence, public health

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