COVID-19 and Period Poverty in Vihiga County
Since the Corona Virus pandemic hit the world in 2019, all aspects of life as we knew it changed for the worst. Prices of almost everything went up. Most pinching has been the price of basic needs like food, shelter, clothing, education, health and menstrual hygiene management supplies.
I know it comes as a shock to many, but menstrual hygiene management supplies are actually not just a basic need, but a human right in the life of an adolescent girl, especially in Vihiga County of Western Province in Kenya.
It is becoming exceedingly harder and more impossible every waking moment, to provide girls with sanitary pads to stem their menstrual blood every month, at Malkia Foundation.
The pandemic saw scores of people lose their jobs in droves. These were people with dependents to support, among who included adolescent girls. What this meant to the girls was a complete lack of not just the essentials, but majorly, their monthly supplies of sanitary pads. This wasn’t such a big deal to the adolescent girls when they had to move to the village with their parents and guardians after the latter’s loss of their sources of livelihood, because they were assured that Malkia Foundation would come to their rescue period-wise.
It was all great and doable in 2020 till mid-2021. Malkia Foundation could afford to provide menstrual hygiene management supplies and more for the girls, until COVID-19 hit close home and the founder had to be hospitalized for three months with not only heart, kidney, diabetes and hypertension complications, but also COVID!
Fast forward to the founder surviving the hospitalization, and returning to work, Malkia Foundation had quite a few key partners withdrawing their support for adolescent girls programs, which saw a rapid decline of the resources necessary to make periods for adolescent girls manageable.
This translates to girls from poor families now having to witness and live through the poverty of not only their homes, but their benefactor’s too. In September 2021, we had two girls sharing a single packet of sanitary pads, and come December, three girls will be sharing the same.
There is no dignity in this! It is bad enough being unable to afford these essentials that are sanitary pads, and worse when a girl thinks someone has her back on the same, then getting the rug pulled from under their feet!
Malkia Foundation is trying its best, but our reserves are almost finished now. Before COVID, we used to serve 4,000 girls every year by making provision for menstrual hygiene management supplies to them. COVID doubled our numbers and without donors, wellwishers, partners and collaborators, not a single girl will be able to access a single sanitary pad for a single month for a long time to come.
This is what period poverty looks like in our backyard.
Founder & Executive Director, Malkia Foundation