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Monday, July 15, 2024

Rising cost of sanitary pads hampers menstrual hygiene among Nigerian women

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Every month, Sadiya Maikasuwa, 40, is reminded that the cost of living crisis means more to her than high food prices. She now spends twice what she used to on sanitary pads, a monthly expense that she must prepare for.

Until she started using sanitary pads a few years ago, Maikasuwa never worried about these expenses. The mother of three said she is now back to her old ways.

“I used to use sanitary pads, but now they are too expensive. I have stopped using it,” she told Newslodgeat his neighbor’s house in Pegi, a community in the Kuje Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

Misbau Kabara, owner of a store in Terminus ma…the sales volumes he makes of health products

Increased cost of living

In the past year, rising inflation, resulting from President Bola Tinubu’s removal of fuel subsidies and floating the naira, has created an economic crisis that has Nigerians groaning. Commodity prices have more than tripled and inflation rose for the 11th consecutive month.

In April, Nigeria’s inflation rate hit the highest level in a generation at 33.69 percent, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

Meanwhile, about half the country’s population is quietly fighting that crisis on another front: Sanitary pad prices have more than tripled in the last year, worsening poverty among Nigerian women of reproductive age.

Statistics show that around 37 million Nigerian women and girls cannot afford essential menstrual hygiene products.

Article page with financial support promotion The cost of sanitary pads has more than tripled from an average of 450 naira in 2021 to 1,500 naira in 2024.

Although the Finance Bill signed by former President Muhammadu Buhari in 2020 exempted sanitary pads from value added tax (VAT), it has barely affected prices of the product, increasing from an average of N450 in 2021 to N1,500 in 2024.

Nigeria has one of the highest costs of healthcare products, according to a study by PlushCare, a telehealth platform that offers virtual primary care appointments. For this research, the platform said it measured in local currencies the cost of a one-month supply of tampons, sanitary pads and ibuprofen medications at the cheapest prices available in 107 countries before converting the prices to US dollars.

“We then compared this cost to the average monthly income of a local person to find the most and least affordable countries and US states to menstruate,” she added.

With more than 133 million Nigerians living below the poverty line, menstrual expenses risk taking a back seat in the family budget, said Anikeade Funke-Treasure, media campaign coordinator Sanitary Pad Media. She said high food prices mean families now have less disposable income to spend on items such as sanitary pads.

“When gari sells for N80,000 a bag, the same as rice and beans, why would people not use the money set aside for sanitary pads and add it to that with which they will buy gari, rice and pepper? Something has to give,” she said in a virtual interview.

Anikeade Funke-Treasure (right) is concerned that inflated pads… will affect product adoption.jpg

Settle for cheaper options

Zainab Muhammad, a 24-year-old student at a university in Sokoto state, northwestern Nigeria, makes and sells snacks and sweets, earning between 1,000 and 3,000 naira daily, depending on orders. However, she is not immune to the poverty of the time. Muhammad said she had to settle for a less expensive pad or use a less healthy alternative.

“When I don’t have enough money, I use what our parents used to use,” he said, referring to cuttings, adding that it’s an option he now explores more frequently.

Zainab Muhammad’s preferred sanitary pad is Virony…I asked her to settle for Softcare, a cheaper option.PNG

Retailers and store owners who spoke to Newslodgein different parts of the country said they have not experienced a major reduction in sales despite the increase in prices. What they experienced, they say, is a shift toward less expensive products.

“Sanitary pads are like water for our dear ladies,” said Misbau Kabara, a shop owner at Terminus market in Jos, Plateau state. Kabara said the increase has not significantly affected the amount of sanitary products he sells.

Armiya’u Aliyu, a shop owner in Sokoto State, said more and more customers are switching to lower-priced products.

Armiya’u Aliyu, a store owner in Sokoto, said more…customers are switching to lower priced products.

“Some come to buy the other one (more expensive) and when they don’t have enough money for it, they just buy the other one,” he said.

Umar Hassan, a shop owner at Wuse Market in Abuja, also said his customers are opting for less expensive products.

“Some people who used to buy Molped stopped buying it when it became expensive and switched to Softcare because it costs less,” he said.

How sanitary pad prices rose

Newslodgespoke to product sellers in FCT, Enugu, Plateau, Lagos and Sokoto states.

At Abuja’s Wuse market, Rufai Ibrahim, a trader, said prices have doubled in recent months. He said Softcare was sold for N1,000 last year but now costs N1,800. Always, another brand, which used to sell for between N700 and N800, now sells for N1,500, he said.

Ibrahim said the smallest size of Molped increased from N500 to N1,000. The medium size increased from N1,000 to N2,000 and the largest size from N1,500 to N3,000.

“Most of them doubled their prices,” he said, adding that his customers now buy less than before.

This year, the price of Molped has at least doubled, according to PREMIUM TIMES.

The price of a bag containing 18 packs of sanitary pads was sold for N11,250 (for Maxi Thick) and N13,320 (Ultra Soft) in February. Each of the packages contains seven to eight pieces of sanitary pads. The bag with eight packs (each with 32 pieces) sold for N16,640 (Maxi Thick) and N20,240 (Ultra Soft).

In March, the 18-pack bag increased to N13,800 (max thick) and N16,500 (ultra soft). The eight-pack bag increased to N21,000 (max thick) and N25,500 (ultra soft).

In April, the price of a box of Virony increased from N36,000 to N40,000, said Umar Hassan, a shop owner at Wuse Market in Abuja.

He said a Softcare box increased from N31,000 to N35,500. Molped increased from N10,500 to N16,500. “It’s the most surprising because it’s the smallest and they raised the price a lot,” he said.

He added that Softcare’s smallest box increased from N9,800 to N11,500.

In Sokoto State, Armiya’u Aliyu, a shop owner, said the price of Molped recently increased from N500 to N750 and that of Softcare from N400 to N650.

Kabara, a shop owner in Jos, said the price of Virony increased from N1,200 to N2,000.

Rising cost of sanitary pads forced Sadiya Maikasuwa to return to using cuttings

Reusable pads to the rescue

Faced with rising prices, some women told Newslodgethat they have abandoned disposable sanitary pads.

Safiya (not her real name), a television journalist, said that reusable sanitary pads have freed her from the constant expense of sanitary pads.

“Well, it’s getting ridiculous. The price you heard about today differs from tomorrow, so I opted for reusable sanitary pads in the market,” he said.

“Now I buy reusable sanitary pads and it’s fine with me. …although washing it may be in some way, but we move.”

Additionally, Ubaida Abubakar, 35, said she started using reusable sanitary pads after they were distributed to her daughter at school. “When she uses it, you can wash it, dry it in the sun and reuse it next time,” she said.

Ubaida Abubakar, 35, has switched to using reusable materials that were distributed to her daughter at school.PNG

Funke-Treasure said reusable sanitary pads are one of the ways to solve the problems of period poverty. He said his non-profit organization has also adopted the distribution of reusable sanitary pads to address period poverty in both urban and rural areas.

“You use the disposable ones and throw them away. You use the reusable ones, wash them, dry them in the sun and then use them again. So you don’t have to repeat purchases,” she said.

Martha (not her real name) said she now wears pads for more hours than before and changes them less frequently to reduce the amount she uses.

“Due to the availability of sanitary pads, I used to change them three to four times, but now I only change them twice a day,” he said.

Charity Israel said she experiences “heavy flow,” which means she has to change pads more frequently. She uses three packs every time she has her period, she said. Mrs. Israel regretted that she now receives only one package with the same amount that she previously paid for the three packages that she needs.

“(The rising cost of sanitary pads) stresses me out, but I still have a hard time getting them,” Kasuwa Danlami said, echoing what some retailers told this newspaper.

Losing campaign against period poverty

When Funke-Treasure started the media campaign against period poverty in 2020, sanitary pads were still selling for between 400 and 450 naira, but many women could not afford it.

“Four years later, a packet now sells for N1,000, depending on the type of brand you are looking for,” he said.

Funke-Treasure, who produces radio soap operas, podcasts and a television show on menstrual hygiene, is concerned that the inflationary effect of sanitary pads could reverse the recorded increase in the number of women adopting sanitary pads and make menstrual hygiene worse for them. .

“If we thought we were winning from the campaign for proper menstrual hygiene for women, it seems we may be losing in that regard, given the rising cost of living in Nigeria.”

She said the challenges faced by menstruating Nigerian women are multifaceted. She therefore advocated for a comprehensive policy by the Nigerian government.

“We are saying to the government: please let us have a comprehensive menstrual health policy that makes it possible for girls and schoolgirls to have free menstrual sanitary pads. That’s number one,” he said.

She added that the policy should also extend to practices that include menstrual leave in workplaces.

“A lot of women in the workplace suffer from endometriosis or fibroids due to PMDD and they don’t tell you all of those things because of the silence around conversations about periods,” she added.

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