The UN refugee agency’s sprawling regional warehouse in Dubai recently received an unusual shipment of aid supplies – 3 million sanitary pads. The welcome gift from the Japan office of global consumer goods giant, Procter & Gamble, came at an opportune time. Due to budgetary constraints, UNHCR has been finding it difficult to meet a core commitment to ensure the provision of sanitary materials to all women and girls of concern.
Many people would probably not consider sanitation when asked to identify the key needs of female refugees and displaced people around the world: things like shelter, food, water and security would be foremost in their minds.
But lack of sanitary materials undermines the protection mandate of UNHCR towards females because it prevents their full participation in education and employment as well as programmes and community-based activities that are organised to help empower them. The issue is central to dignity and health.
The Procter & Gamble gift will help improve the lives of tens of thousands of women over the next year. Half of the shipment is earmarked for camps in Rwanda, while UNHCR will also send supplies for Iraqi refugees in Jordan and Syria, hosts to more than 2 million Iraqis who have fled their country.