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UNICEF Decries Lack of Accessible Safe Hygienic Facilities in Nigeria Schools

From Ignatius Okpara, Enugu 

The United Nations Children’s Fund, (UNICEF) has lamented the difficulties being faced by young girls in accessing safe hygienic mensuration facilities such as water sanitation especially during school hours, saying such development makes some of them drop from school or refuses to attend classes during menstrual period.

The agency, therefore, canvassed support from government at all levels, organizations, parents and other stakeholders, to help adolescent women and girls have safe and proud menstrual cycles, especially during school hours.

The global body stressed that provision of water, sanitation and other menstrual facilities would help the girls gain confidence in staying at schools during their periods and pleaded that traditional inhibitions of girls during menstruation be lifted.

UNICEF Nigeria WASH Manager, Mamita Bora Thakkar made the plea Wednesday in Enugu  via a statement to mark the 2020 world Menstrual Hygiene Day, (MHD), observed globally every May 28.

“Stigmatizing adolescent girls and women for something that is natural and normal, because of myths and false beliefs undermines a woman’s basic rights.” Thakkar said.

She further stated that an appropriate MHM programme in schools would require a multi-pronged strategy, involving the commitment of several Ministries, stakeholders like Unicef, civil societies and others.

“A good Menstrual Hygiene Management, MHM, programme means that girls have appropriate information and knowledge on the scientific aspects of menstrual health and hygiene, so that they are empowered through this knowledge, become confident to address this. Alongside this, there is a compelling need to address the issue of lack of WASH infrastructure in schools, on priority.

“Government needs to allocate appropriate budget, ensure that all schools have adequate, functional toilets, water and hand washing facilities. Government needs to make sure that girls have access to sanitary products and their disposal.

“We also need to work closely with parents, elders, schools teachers, community leaders to make sure the taboos, myths and the barriers around MHM is understood in an appropriate manner, and to raise awareness on these. There is a need for appropriate policies and political support, at a national level, that prioritizes MHM.

According to Thakkar, “Study indicates that only 16 percent schools in Nigeria have basic water and sanitation facilities and only seven percent of the schools have basic water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, putting enormous challenge to menstruating girls to manage their menstruation hygienically and with dignity.

She added that “the average ratio of toilets/latrine in the urban schools for girls was 1:214 and for boys 1:374 while it is 1:168 and 1:272 for girls and boys respectively in rural schools.

African Examiner reports that most of the girls that responded stated that they had no prior knowledge about menstruation beforehand. There was no information on menstrual hygiene in the school curriculum and the teachers, especially those in co-educational schools, were uncomfortable to teach MHM, they stated.

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