Women and girls in Gaza are resorting to unsafe ways of managing their periods amid a severe shortage of period products and catastrophic humanitarian conditions. ActionAid has heard that some displaced women living in Rafah are so desperate they are cutting out small pieces of the tents they rely on for shelter from the cold and rain to use as a substitute for period products, risking infection. The lack of water means keeping clean is near impossible, with women telling us they have gone for weeks without a proper place to bathe.
A staff member at ActionAid Palestine, who wishes to remain anonymous, has been displaced from her home three times and is now in the south of Gaza. She told us:
“There is no water. I suffered during my period. There was no water available for me to get clean during my period. I had no sanitary pads for my own needs throughout my period.”
With Rafah currently hosting more than a million displaced people – more than four times its usual population – in extremely overcrowded conditions, there is no privacy. Lines for toilets are extremely long, with UNRWA estimating that there is only one toilet per 486 people at its shelters in Rafah.
Adara*, who was displaced from her home with her four children, told us:
“We suffer a lot whenever we want to go to the bathroom. We stand in line for a long time and the bathrooms are far away.”
Only one of the three water pipelines from Israel to Gaza is operational, according to UNOCHA. People only have access to an average of 1.5 to 2 liters of water per day, falling below the essential 3 liters needed for basic survival and significantly lower than the recommended minimum of 15 liters daily to meet all water and sanitation needs, including washing.
ActionAid, alongside its local partners, Wefaq Association for Women and Childcare (WEFAQ), is supporting women and girls in Gaza as best we can amid extremely challenging conditions for aid operations. Our support so far has included distributing hygiene kits (tissues, toilet paper, soap, sanitary pads and wet wipes)
– and constructing 60 toilet and shower blocks in Rafah, which will provide women and girls with a private space.
Riham Jafari, Advocacy and Communications Coordinator at ActionAid Palestine, said:
“Imagine having to manage your period with no period products, toilet paper or soap, and no chance of being able to wash yourself – all while living cheek by jowl with other people without a moment of privacy. This is the reality for hundreds of thousands of women and girls in Gaza right now. It isn’t just affront to their dignity – it’s a real health hazard too.
One of our colleagues in Gaza told me it has been weeks since she’s been able to have a shower. Women like her are showing incredible resilience and finding creative ways to manage their periods and needs as best they can, but they shouldn’t have to: it is a fundamental right for women to be able to manage their periods safely and with dignity.
At ActionAid, we are supporting women and girls as best we can, but with the already catastrophic humanitarian conditions worsening by the day and the scale of need skyrocketing,
these solutions are just a sticking plaster. As we have repeatedly stated, what the people of Gaza need is a permanent ceasefire, now, to end the senseless killing of civilians, with women and girls making up 70% of those killed, and to allow desperately needed aid to reach those who need it.”
A donation of $15 could provide a hygiene kit for a person in need in Gaza – including enough toiletries and menstrual products to last a month. Support those in crisis here.
For media requests, please email Jenna.Farineau@actionaid.org or call 202-731-9593.
Spokespeople are available:
- Niranjali Amerasinghe, Executive Director of ActionAid USA
- Riham Jafari, Coordinator of Advocacy and Communication for ActionAid Palestine
ActionAid is a global federation working with more than 41 million people living in more than 71 of the world’s poorest countries. We want to see a just, fair, and sustainable world, in which everybody enjoys the right to a life of dignity, and freedom from poverty and oppression. We work to achieve social justice and gender equality and to eradicate poverty.