Jaipur, August, 2020.
Seven out of every ten adolescent females (73%) in Rajasthan say they have had a problem procuring sanitary pads during the lockdown in the state. This grave unmet need for sanitary napkins is among several critical insights that have emerged from a timely three-state Rapid Assessment Study conducted by National NGO Population Foundation of India (PFI) across Rajasthan, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
These insights confirm some of the worst fears that healthcare experts have had about adolescent well-being during the lockdown.
According to Poonam Muttreja, Executive Director, PFI, this unmet need is bound to have an adverse effect in the coming months. “It is deeply worrying that such a large percentage of young female adolescents have had zero access to sanitary napkins during the lockdown. It is now evidently clear that young adolescent girls have been badly impacted. Things need to change at the ground level. The government needs to distribute sanitary napkins through the ASHA and ANM workers’ network. It takes tremendous convincing on the part of frontline workers to encourage and educate school-going girls to use sanitary napkins. The unavailability of sanitary napkins can push up the worrisome school dropout rates for girls. This could impact the young girl psychologically as well as lead to health issues. Throughout the lockdown we have advocated a gender-sensitive and inclusive response to the COVID-19 crisis.”
These critical findings are part of the Population Foundation of India’s ‘Rapid Assessment study’ conducted across Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Bihar in May 2020 to understand “how adolescents were coping with COVID-19 challenges.” The idea was to understand the level of knowledge of the young population (15-24 years) regarding COVID-19; how it has impacted their lives and mental health, and their needs and priorities. The main areas of impact studied were a) the effect on mental health; b) sources to obtain information on COVID-19; c) increase in workload at home and d) unmet need for sanitary napkins since schools were shut.
Dr. Manohar Agnani, Joint Secretary, Reproductive and Child Health, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, agrees that adolescents have been impacted by COVID-19 and the lockdown, more so because the group is generally perceived as the healthiest among communities and the system as well. He said they would want to work on the results the Survey has thrown up, consider the alternative solutions and delivery mechanisms proposed, apart from strengthening government systems. “We realise that there may have been an impact on access to commodities such as iron and folic acid tablets, contraceptives, sanitary napkins, among other essentials health services which we proactively issued guidelines for. We have also issued directions saying that all adolescent friendly health clinics should be working normally, outreach activities like counsellors and peer educators should function normally. And distribution of iron and folic acid tablets, sanitary napkins and contraceptives should be ensured. We think a convergence with other departments and the civil society organisations is very important. Adolescent health is a priority for us and we are aware that their health needs are unique.”
Other Key Findings
School as the Information Source on COVID-19
In Rajasthan, 23% of the total respondents listed schools as a reliable source of information on COVID-19. Incidentally of the three states, Rajasthan was the only one where respondents showed that the school system has worked in disseminating information about the pandemic. A whopping 84% said that TV was the main source of information on COVID-19
WhatsApp as a Source of Information on COVID-19
37% of respondents admitted to using WhatsApp as a source of information during the lockdown.
Increase in Workload
35% of respondents indicated an increase in workload especially household chores during the lockdown
Increase in Fights at Home
33% of young adolescents in Rajasthan witnessed an increase in tension and fights at home during the lockdown
Depression Due to Lockdown
2 out of every 10 adolescents that PFI spoke with felt depressed due to the lockdown
Accessing Mental Health During Lockdown
A considerable 45% of young adolescents sought help from a mental health resource during the lockdown in Rajasthan The paper can be accessed<https://populationfoundation.in/impact-of-covid-19-on-young-people/