Caretakers Selling Our Sanitary Pads—Refugee Girls Cry Out as coronavirus lockdown tightens

By James Chanwat

KIYRANDONGO

 Adolescent girls in Kirayandongo Refugee settlement are crying out for lack of sanitary towels saying that their parents and guardians are selling off what the aid agencies give them to host communities. 

The girls say that their parents or guardians are short of essentials to keep the family running due to the current coronavirus lockdown measures to prevent the spread of the disease and are selling whatever they can including their sanitary towels to give away prizes to acquire food. 

Agnes Anena, 24, told Refugee Media and Migration Network on Friday that the sanitary distribution is always done by UNHCR and other organisations including Danish Refugee Council (DRC). She said girls with lengthy menstruation periods suffer when they have no pads. 

 “They gave us pads which should take us four months, for the months of April, May, June, July and August.  But as girls we have different menstrual cycles. Some go for four days and others go for two or three days.  Therefore those who have more days their (two packets of) pads are done,” said Anena on Friday.

In Uganda nearly all source of livelihoods have been disrupted following a fresh lockdown to prevent the spread of corona virus which has so far claimed thousands of lives.

The most affected sector is education, transport and business limiting communities from accessing goods and services.

Anena is an inspiration to many refugee girls and known in the settlement by her peers for supporting fellow girls. She is now advising refugee girls to be innovative and find ways to remain clean and healthy. 

“Do not sit and wait for everything. Instead start planing of an alternative way given the sensitivity of the lockdown which may limit us from accessing more pads. If yours are done and you don’t have pads, you can use a clean piece of cotton cloth which can absorb blood,” Said Anena who put emphasise on good hygiene to prevent infections. 

In nearly all refugee settlements across Uganda, refugees are known for selling off relief items like food and beddings including girls sanitary pads.

Ms. Nancy Akech said parents and guardians in the settlement have for long been selling what should be helping their girls stay comfortable and clean yet they cannot afford to buy for the girls to replace the ones they have soled. 

“We have received pads for two months but most parents decided to take some to the host community and sell them at a very low cost and now they cannot afford buying pads for their children. That is why some of the children think that the pads were not given to them yet their parents or guardians received and sold them off. If possible Organisations they should start giving pads every month to prevent it from being sold,”Akech told Refugee and Migration News. 

Ms Akech suggested that the pads should be given to the girls and not through their parents and guardians so that they are able to keep and use the pads when they need them. 

The local leaders in the settlement say that child care if for individual parents to consider for the good of their girls. 

A packet of sanitary pads in the shops costs Shs3,000 (Less than $1) but the refugees sell of the distributed pads at Shs1,500 (About $0.5) in the community. 

The refugee girls are always given one packet of sanitary pads per month. If a parent has four girls, they will get 16 packets of pads. Some sell part of these off to get money for other needs