Shortages of sanitary products during the coronavirus pandemic has led to a rise in “period poverty”, a children’s charity has said.
A recent survey by Plan International found that three in 10 girls in the UK had struggled to afford or access period products during the lockdown.
Of those, 54% said they had to use toilet paper as an alternative, the charity said.
A separate survey by WaterAid found more than half of menstruating women (55%) in the UK had experienced increased challenges managing their periods under lockdown
Rose Caldwell, chief executive of Plan International UK said issues arising from the pandemic were making it harder for girls and young women to manage their periods “safely and with dignity”.
“We already know that the coronavirus outbreak is having a devastating impact on family finances all over the world,” she said.
“But now we see that girls and women are also facing widespread shortages and price hikes on period products, with the result that many are being forced to make do with whatever they can find to manage their period.”
According to Plan International’s latest survey of 45 health professionals from 30 countries, 73% said women were facing restricted access to products through shortages or disrupted supply chains.
Meanwhile, the WaterAid charity asked 755 British women aged 18 to 55 how the lockdown had affected their ability to manage menstruation.
About one in seven (15%) said they stockpiled sanitary materials at the start of the lockdown in preparation for supply issues. In London, the figure was 25%.
And 14% said they were worried about going outside while having their periods during lockdown due to the closure of public toilets.
Ms Caldwell said: “Period stigma is both a cause and consequence of gender inequality and can have a serious impact on girls’ life chances.
“It’s therefore critical that governments and health agencies prioritise menstrual hygiene management in their response to the coronavirus crisis and treat sanitary products as essential items during the pandemic and beyond.”
Plan International said global period poverty and stigma was getting worse under lockdown.
The survey results were published to coincide with the start of Menstrual Hygiene Day on May 28.
In March, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the Government’s plans to end the tampon tax and abolish VAT on women’s sanitary products from 2021.