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“Having your period with no access to water, pads, or soap is one of the worst things”: Period poverty soars in Gaza as women and girls unable to access or afford period products

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As World Menstrual Hygiene Day (May 28) is marked globally, three women in Gaza have described how difficult it is to manage their periods without sufficient period products, water, soap or access to toilets, as conditions worsen and little aid trickles in.  
Period products have almost disappeared from the local markets in Gaza and, when they are available, prices have soared, according to UNOCHA, forcing many women and girls to use products for longer than recommended or rely on unsafe alternatives, such as scraps of tent. With the majority of the population displaced and living in hugely overcrowded areas, where resources are under immense strain, access to water and soap is extremely limited. Finding privacy is almost impossible, with hundreds of people forced to share a single toilet or shower.  
Three women have told ActionAid what it is like trying to manage their period each month, and how they cope. Huda, 33, who is living in a tent in the grounds of a hospital in central Gaza with her three daughters, said in a voice note message: “Having your period with no access to water, pads, or soap is one of the worst things. These were already in short supply at the beginning of the war. We had to use makeshift cloth pads when we first arrived. It’s also a significant issue having to use the toilet with no water. We need to take a water bottle every time we have to use the toilet. 
“We don’t have soap. Which [has] led to bathrooms harbouring many viruses. People [have] contracted intestinal catarrh and jaundice from using the toilet. I caught jaundice and am still recovering. My eyes are yellow. And I’m having trouble with my eyes and ears. I cannot see or hear properly. 
“Having your period here is terrible...When one of my daughters has her period, she has to buy pads for 10-15 shekels [£2-3]. It’s too much! We cannot afford it. Each pack has about six pads, which isn’t nearly enough. Two packs aren’t nearly enough for me. 

“These days, we cannot even use the make-shift cloth pads. If we’re to use nappies instead, an individual nappy costs five shekels [£1] nowadays. Nappies give us rashes, and makeshift cloth pads are useless. Nothing works... It is a real hassle to have your period in the summer with no water, no soap, no sanitization and without decent women’s products. Everything we use is useless. But we try to make do with what we have.” 
Israa, 20, is currently living in a tent for displaced people in Deir Al Balah, central Gaza, and worries about being able to afford and access enough period products. She told ActionAid: “It has become really difficult [to have my period]. A pack of [period] pads is 15-17 shekels [£3.2- 3.6] Who can afford to spend this much every month? I try to save the pack to last me two cycles...I worry about whether I’ll manage to get pads and other necessities. They are really difficult to come by even if you have the money to buy them....Some people are using alternatives to pads. 
“It’s difficult to live and maintain your hygiene in a tent. It’s almost summer now; Back home, we [could] shower a few times a day. Nowadays, we can barely shower and wash our hair once a week. And personal hygiene products are not available.” 
Duaa, 30, who has been displaced to a tent on the grounds of a hospital in Deir Al Balah, told ActionAid: “A pack of [period] pads is about 15 shekels [£3.20]. One pack is not enough; I always need two.  
“[The] toilets are not always functioning nor are they always open...It’s a hassle trying to use the [toilet]. People bang on the door the second you walk in...Sometimes, we’re denied access to the bathroom. I look for other [toilets] only to find them in a terrible condition. 
“I shower once a month. Only after my period is over. And that’s it...I can’t even shower weekly, let alone daily… I would love to shower at least once a week, but I cannot.” 
Since the Israeli military intensified its attacks on Rafah earlier this month, the amount of humanitarian aid entering Gaza had dropped significantly, pushing people closer towards famine and denying them of essentials, including period products and soap. We demand that all aid routes into Gaza are opened immediately and that the Israeli authorities ensure the safe, unimpeded flow of essential aid into Gaza, as both the ICJ’s provisional measures and UN Security Council’s resolution called on them to do.  
Riham Jafari, Advocacy and Communications Coordinator at ActionAid Palestine said: “Amid living conditions that can only be described as inhumane, it is almost impossible for women and girls in Gaza to manage their periods in a way that is safe, hygienic and preserves their dignity. With period products either unavailable or unaffordable, women are being forced to resort to using potentially unsafe and unhygienic alternatives including tent scraps, bits of clothing, or paper – which could put their health at risk. In the areas where people have been displaced to, there simply aren’t enough toilets and showers, making it even harder for people to manage their periods.  
“Getting their period each month only adds to the distress and discomfort of women and girls in Gaza, who have lived with daily fear, uncertainty, danger and trauma for eight months now. With aid operations majorly disrupted, the humanitarian situation is deteriorating by the day. This cannot go on, we urgently need a permanent ceasefire now, to stop the killing and allow desperately needed aid to flood into Gaza quickly and safely.”   

Help ActionAid supply dignity kits – which include enough period products and toiletries to last a month – to women and girls in Gaza by donating to our appeal here