One thing MSF staff know is that managing menstrual hygiene in a crisis zone is not always easy. In many of the contexts where we work, products for menstruation can be scarce or completely absent, so when packing my bags for my early assignments, pads were the one thing taking most of the space in my luggage. Lack of latrines, poor hygiene conditions, lack of water supply and privacy complicates things even further, particularly while on the move.

Recently however, I’ve found something that works better for me: period underwear. Period underwear are washable, durable underwear capable of absorbing the menstrual flow without the need for any other products.

While on assignment in the province of South Kivu, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), I shared with a female colleague my personal experience using period underwear. From that first conversation we started wondering: could this work in a rural setting for women who have been displaced, who face many more challenges than we do?

Menstrual hygiene is part of reproductive health and as such is a fundamental right and basic need that must be considered. The lack of adequate menstrual products and safe spaces to manage menstrual hygiene can cause women great discomfort and anxiety, which can become stigmatising shame and fear.

So how do displaced women deal with menstruation? And could period underwear be usefully introduced in the hygiene kits MSF distributes to them in the DRC?

All innovation begins with a question, and an idea. To test ours, we decided to apply to the Sapling Nursery, an MSF fund which helps teams pilot new approaches which have the potential to change how we work for the better.

Read the full article about innovations in menstrual hygiene by Chiara Domenichini at Doctors Without Borders.