Period poverty is a global public health issue, and describes an inability to consistently access necessary menstrual products. In the United States, more than 20% of low-income women are affected by period poverty. This issue has been exacerbated by the current COVID-19 pandemic. Nadya Okamoto, founder of the nongovernmental organization (NGO) Period, says that the demand for donations is only increasing, as stores begin to sell out of menstrual products (the same way they have been experiencing shortages of other sanitary products such as toilet paper). This should come as no surprise, as people who would regularly access period products free-of-charge through initiatives like school programs are currently unable to do so, and must turn to alternative methods of obtaining these products. Plan International UK have reported that many women have even turned to using toilet paper to control their menstrual blood during quarantine, in the absence of the necessary items.
While the situation is distressing, many organizations are working tirelessly to ensure that menstruators in their area secure the supplies they need. The New Zealand-based NGO The Good Fund is giving away reusable period products to those who apply on their site, including cloth pads, period underwear, and menstrual cups. For those currently able to access sustainable menstrual products such as these, multiple advantages are conferred. Not only are sustainable items better for the environment, but they also eliminate the need to continuously buy products, thus removing the necessity of searching for products when supplies are low.
Whether sustainable or not, now more than ever, there can be no question that menstrual products are essential items. Moving forward, through the pandemic and beyond, they should be treated as such by those who control their distribution.