Women to get free sanitary napkins in Lucknow.. Image Source: IANS News

Jaipur, Aug 13 : Seven of every 10 adolescent females, nearly 73 per cent, in Rajasthan say they have had a problem procuring sanitary pads during 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 NGO 'Population Foundation of India' across Rajasthan, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

According to Poonam Muttreja, Executive Director, Population Foundation of India, 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. The unavailability of sanitary napkins can push up the worrisome school dropout rates for girls. This could impact young girls psychologically as well as lead to health issues." 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.

"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 essential 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. The distribution of iron and folic acid tablets, sanitary napkins and contraceptives should be ensured," says Dr. Agnani.

The other key findings of the survey say that in Rajasthan, two of every 10 adolescents that PFI spoke with felt depressed due to the lockdown.

Nearly 45 per cent of adolescents sought help from a mental health resource during the lockdown in Rajasthan. Similarly, 35 per cent of respondents indicated an increase in workload especially, household chores during the lockdown while 33 per cent of adolescents in Rajasthan witnessed an increase in tension and brawls at home during the lockdown.

Twenty-three per cent 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.

Thirty-seven per cent of respondents also admitted to using WhatsApp as a source of information during the lockdown.

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 Covid-19 knowledge among the young population between 15 and 24 years and how it has impacted their lives and mental health and their needs and priorities.

The study's main areas of impact included effect on mental health, source to obtain information on Covid-19, increase in workload at home, and unmet need for sanitary napkins since schools were shut.

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