ASSESSMENT OF KNOWLEDGE, PERCEPTIONS AND PRACTICES OF MENSTRUAL HYGIENE MANAGEMENT AMONG FEMALES AGED (15-49 YEARS) IN BIDIBIDI REFUGEE SETTLEMENT, YUMBE DISTRICTT, UGANDA
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ABSTRACT Background: Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) is essential to women's reproductive health and has a lasting impact on women's education and health. However, little or no account is taken of the issue of menstrual hygiene in humanitarian response for refugees. Objective: The study assessed the knowledge, perceptions and practices of females aged 15-49 years regarding menstrual hygiene management in Bidibidi refugee settlement. Methodology: The study adopted a cross-sectional study design with qualitative and quantitative data collection methods. Multistage sampling technique was used to select study participants. Data was collected using a questionnaire, Focus Group Discussions (FGD) guide and Key Informant Interviews (KIIs) guide. Data was analysed using Stata version 13 where bivariate and multivariate analysis was conducted using logistic regression to determine associations between variables considering P value < 0.05 as significant. Results: The study found inadequate MHM among women and girls 148/422 (35.1%) significantly associated with knowledge (P=0.000) and practice (P=0.000). Knowledge of menstruation was inadequate 170/422(40.3%) despite the timely and wide spread information and education provided to women and girls. Menstruation was perceived as a secret affair and a discomfort and this was reflected in the secretive and indiscriminate management practices. Inadequate menstrual hygiene practices were found 155/422(36.7%) shown by lack of privacy, poor storage and disposal of materials. There was a discrepancy on the preferred menstrual materials by the females and what UNHCR recommends. Conclusion: The study raises concern on why knowledge of menstruation and menstrual hygiene was inadequate despite the timely and widespread information. The perception of menstruation as a secret issue and discomforting experience negatively affects menstrual hygiene practices. Women and girls in Bidibidi prefer to use disposable pads despite the recommendation by aid agencies for reusable pads. All aspects of MHM are essential and none of them should be neglected as was the case in this study. Recommendation; Researchers should investigate the reasons for inadequate menstrual hygiene knowledge amidst the availability of information. MHM programs should develop behaviour change communication strategies to address the wrong perceptions around menstruation. UNHCR needs to provide the menstrual materials preferred by women and girls not what they feel is right. All aspects of MHM should be considered in MHM programmes.