Menstrual Hygiene Management in Refugee Camps. A Qualitative Assessment using Focus Group Discussions

Research Paper (undergraduate), 2015

15 Pages, Grade: 3.82




Objective of the FGD


Key Findings of the FGD

Results of the FGD

Conclusion and recommendations

Annex I

A Guideline for Focus Group Discussion on Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) for women living in Bokolmanyo Camp



Many literatures had mentioned that MENSTRUAL HYGIENE has been largely neglected by WASH sectors and others focusing on sexual and reproductive health, and education. As a result millions of women and girly continue to be denied of their rights for WASH, health, education, dignity and gender equity. Though it is a natural part of the reproductive cycle, menstruation, in most parts of the world, it remains a taboo and is rarely talked about. Thus, the practical challenges of menstrual hygiene are made even more difficult by various socio cultural factors.

The provision of sanitary materials is crucial not only to the health of women and girls, but also to their dignity and protection. While the High Commissioner’s five commitments to Refugee Women includes the provision of sanitary materials to all women and girls of concern, the available data shows that this commitment has been fulfilled only in one third of the operations worldwide. (UNHCR Guidelines to Hygiene Promotion, March 2011)

Lack of involvement in decision making, lack of information and awareness, poor or no access to products and facilities, and lack of social support were found as the major factors for the poor menstrual hygiene.

Recognizing that, the factors affecting menstrual hygiene of women are different in different settings/contexts, the investigator conducted two Focus Group Discussions (24 discussants); with Child bearing women in the camp and girls (15-18 years) who are attending schools with the aim to identify the access to MHM materials, challenges and the utilization behaviors of the refugees and assess their preference to the type of MHM materials.

Objective of the FGD

- To assess women’s previous/before coming to the camps/ experiences regarding menstrual hygiene management

- To assess women’s practice of MHM items
- To identify women’s preference towards the types of sanitary pads
- To identify the challenges women are facing in addressing MH needs
- To understand the awareness of school girls regarding menstrual hygiene


Study Period

- This focus group discussion was conducted 13th December 2013 - 14th December 2013.

Study area

- These focus group discussions were conducted at Bokolmanyo refugee camp.

Study population/Discussants

- The participants of the focus group discussion were women of child bearing age residing in Bokolmanyo refugee camp and Females (age greater than 15) attending school.

Two FGDs comprising of women of child bearing age and female school attendants with a total number of 24 discussants were conducted.

Table 1 FGD discussants

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Participants of the FGDs were selected with consent. Appointments were made with the selected volunteers/discussants as where and when the discussion was going to be held. Then the discussion was held as per the pre-determined time and place

Key Findings of the FGD

- Different experiences of sanitary pads utilization were observed among the discussants before their arrival to the camp. Those women coming from urban area used had the experience of sanitary pads utilization while those women coming from rural part of Somalia used to use clothes.
- Reusable Clothes and sanitary pads were used as the main menstrual hygiene materials as most of the discussants explained. One of the discussants says “...before my arrival to this camp, I used to use cloths and currently I use sanitary pads to manage my periodic menstruation”.
- Almost all of the discussants were found to be expertise in using the sanitary pads. Many discussants stated that they currently use clothes pointing that sanitary pads could not easily be accessed by them.
- “We know that MHM materials are essential for us but we currently are not accessing them, we have received them long time ago and thus we are in a problem to manage our periodic menstruation” said a woman among the discussants indicting that there is a great demand for MHM items by the refugees.
- The Disposable type sanitary pad was preferred by majority of the discussants putting their fear of the health costs that the reusable type sanitary pad would boast on them.

Results of the FGD

Feelings of women upon arrival to the camps

Most of the discussants were quite responsive when answering “What things did you feel you need for you hygiene and health upon your arrival to the camp?” Very few of them keep quite from responding to the question. Most of the discussant’s thought that drugs were the first priorities for their health while water, water collection jerry cans, latrines, and soap were priority demands for hygiene. Limited number of discussants mentioned; basins, potties and sanitary pads as essential items for their personal hygiene. One of the discussants said. “When I first arrived in this camp, the first thing that I felt as essential for me and my family was medicine, water and jerry cans and soap for health and hygiene.”

Hygiene and health information were seldom given to most of the respondents. “Upon my arrival to the camp, there was no body coming me to provide health and hygiene messages.” Some of them also mentioned that “ǥthis is the first time to sit in a circle and discuss on menstrual hygiene”.

On the other hand, few discussants said that health and hygiene messages were delivered to them upon their arrival to the camp. “Discussions regarding environmental hygiene/cleanness and the utilization of sanitary pads were conducted by RR Corps.”

Women’s menstrual hygiene practice before coming to the camps

It was observed that the existing cultural differences between the rural and the urban population in Somalia have contributed to the MHM practices of women. Discussants stated that, most of the women coming from urban area used sanitary pads while those originating from rural part of Somalia used to use clothes to manage their periodic menstruation. “I myself came from urban area, thus I have been using sanitary pads.” On the other hand, a woman from rural area replied that she used to use cloth for managing her MH.

Access to MHM items and Current Utilization/practice of women

Women and girls often find menstrual hygiene difficult due to a lack of access to appropriate sanitary protection products or facilities. Currently, in Bokolmanyo camp most of the respondents have been found using cloths for menstrual hygiene. This was because of the lack of sanitary pads. Lack of access to sanitary pads was cited as a problem by all of the discussants and thus they are using clothes instead of sanitary pads during their menstruation.

Discussants were asked about the access to MHM items. Almost all of the respondents reported that they used to access the MHM items previously from ARRA together with the ration they were receiving monthly. The distribution of these items had been made by ARRA long time ago. “MHM items were consecutively distributed for about 4 times in the last years, though we have received them long time ago.”

Discussants explained that MHM materials are essential for them and they showed a great demand for. It was understood from the FGD that women are in challenge of their MH due to the lack of MHM items and the in affordability of the items by women. “MHM items are like our daily intake, we cannot afford the cost for them and thus a challenge to manage our periodic menstruation.”

Participants of the FGD were also asked to explain the way how they received the MHM items. They briefed like this, “ǥthere were workers coming to our zone/home to take our list. Then after completing the list of the beneficiaries, distribution was made according to our family size i.e priority was given for those families with larger sizes and then to the smaller size families”

Most of the women/discussants reported that they were not able to buy the items by themselves while very few of them said that they were able to purchase the items from the market whenever available.

All of the discussants mentioned that they know how to use the items, though their accessibility is the challenge women are currently facing in the camp.

MHM items Utilization behavior of women

Currently, reusable Cloth was usually used by most of the discussants. “We were using reusable cloth. By the time we want to change the cloth once used, change it with a clean one and wash the one used for the next day/time.”

The difference between sanitary pads and the cloth was not perceived as significant by some of the discussants. They justify that the reusable cloth is preferable because it can easily be accessed while the sanitary pads could not be accessed.


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Menstrual Hygiene Management in Refugee Camps. A Qualitative Assessment using Focus Group Discussions
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menstrual, hygiene, management, refugee, camps, qualitative, assessment, focus, group, discussions, Menstrual hygiene, Qualitative Assessment, Ethiopia, Sub Saharan Africa
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Wudalew Meselu Tesfaye (Author), 2015, Menstrual Hygiene Management in Refugee Camps. A Qualitative Assessment using Focus Group Discussions, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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