After the Earthquake, Women Face a New Battle in Nepal
A week after a magnitude-7.8 earthquake rocked Nepal and claimed more than 7,000 lives, hundreds of thousands of survivors are still in need of essentials such as food, water, clothing, and shelter.
Foreign relief efforts have been slowed by reported inspections at customs and there being a single international airport with just one runway. U.S. troops managed to arrive in the disaster-stricken country on Sunday, but one thing they likely won't be distributing is also one of the most needed: sanitary pads.
“There’s a lot of mobilization of young people and also from the government side working for relief, but there’s hardly anybody thinking about the hygiene of women,” Ursula Singh told International Business Times.
For that reason, Loom, Singh’s Nepalese women’s rights organization, recently launched a campaign aimed at providing packages of sanitary pads, undergarments, and basic hygiene kits to 10,000 women in 15 days. Dubbed “Support 10,000 Women,” the initiative also seeks to provide baby blankets and formula to new and expectant mothers. The U.N. Population Fund is also on the ground distributing health kits that include sanitary napkins.
Of the roughly 8 million people affected by the earthquake, some 2 million are women and girls of reproductive age, according to recent U.N. estimates. Women in need of hygienic supplies are among the thousands who evacuated their homes and took to camping in the streets of Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital.
When Loom volunteers ventured into the tent communities to provide aid, they were stunned by the conditions they observed. “Some young girls who were menstruating were sitting inside the tent in one place, because they did not have sanitary pads, and there were all these bloodstains,” Singh told IBM. “It was getting bad. They used to go out, and they just weren’t anymore.”
The obstacles women face in this time of disaster aren’t improved by Nepal’s long-standing cultural stigmas surrounding menstruation. In some regions of the country, an outlawed ritual called chaupadi keeps women exiled in caves or huts away from their home for the duration of their period every month.