In the Central African Republic (CAR), extreme poverty makes the situation particularly critical for women’s menstrual health and hygiene



Menstrual health is a human rights issue, not just a health matter. Armed conflicts, extreme poverty, gender inequality, and harmful traditions often exacerbate poor menstrual hygiene management. Additionally, the persistent stigma surrounding this issue fuels silence, making it even more challenging to implement effective menstrual health policies.
Economic disparities worsen period poverty, severely affecting women and girls from low-income families. Affording menstrual products becomes a significant challenge, perpetuating a cycle of poverty that limits their opportunities for improvement and progress.
According to World Bank statistics, globally, about 500 million people are affected by period poverty and lack access to menstrual hygiene products or adequate sanitation facilities. In the Central African Republic, being among the poorest countries in the world, the condition of women is particularly challenging.


Growing poverty and instability in the Central African Republic

In the southeastern Central African Republic (CAR), escalating violence among armed groups is crippling the healthcare system and worsening the already difficult living conditions for the population. Since 2017, this area has been a battleground for resource control, leading to severe consequences for residents.
In 2023, the already critical situation and financial constraints have further deteriorated. The war in Sudan has impacted the northeastern part of the Central African Republic. At the same time, the border area with Chad in the northwest has experienced increasing instability, further complicating humanitarian efforts.
According to World Bank data, the Central African Republic ranks 5th in the world for poverty rate, with nearly 70% of the population living in extreme poverty.


Challenges in accessing menstrual hygiene products

In the Central African Republic (CAR), where some areas are difficult for humanitarian organizations to access, women and adolescent girls have almost no access to menstrual hygiene products due to the precarious conditions they live in and the lack of knowledge about menstrual health.
In Mboko2 and Liton, on the outskirts of Bangui where our teams operate, menstrual hygiene products are scarce and, when available, are a luxury for most of the population. A single sanitary pad costs 1.5 euros.
Period poverty in the country significantly hinders educational opportunities for young women. According to UNICEF data, one in four girls is forced to miss school due to inadequate facilities for managing menstruation and lack of menstrual education. This not only compromises their education but also perpetuates the stigma and shame associated with menstruation.


The experience of Guilaine and Julia

Like many girls living on the outskirts of the capital and throughout the entire country, Guilaine and Julia had to use pieces of cloth instead of sanitary pads when they first menstruated.
“I got my first period when I was 11,” Guilaine recounts. “That day, I was coming home from school when suddenly I noticed blood. I panicked and thought of running home to talk to my mother. Unfortunately, she wasn’t there that day, so I had to talk to my father,” she recalls. “He told me to take a shower and stay calm, then he cut a piece of new cloth that belonged to my mother and showed me how to put it in my underwear to contain the flow of blood.”
Julia also had a similar experience: she got her first period while returning home from the market. “That day, I was out selling cassava leaves at the market,” she recounts. “On the way back, I felt something strange, an unusual flow of blood, and I didn’t hesitate to tell my grandmother’s husband, with whom I lived. He immediately told me to take a bath, then he cut a piece of cloth and showed me how to use it. Since that day, I have only used pieces of cloth for my menstrual hygiene,” says Julia.


The work of our teams

The work carried out by our teams, consisting of psychosocial assistants, case managers, and community volunteers, focuses on raising awareness and informing the population about the importance of menstrual health. This includes educating on using menstrual hygiene products to prevent infections during menstruation and proper use of sanitary facilities for safe washing, ensuring privacy.
In particular, women and girls have the opportunity to attend our Safe Spaces where they can be informed about all aspects of menstrual health. Since 2023, more than 3,000 women have participated in our awareness sessions.
To improve menstrual hygiene, our partner UNFPA has donated more than 800 kits containing essential products such as soap, sanitary pads, and underwear to women and girls in Mboko2.