Adolescent and young adult (AYA) females in low- and middle-income countries often face disparities in menstrual health (MH). Poor MH and lack of sexual and reproductive health education leads to school absenteeism, increasing risk for adverse psychosocial and educational outcomes. Further, disasters (e.g., earthquakes) are linked with unsafe living environments and sanitation facilities for women. We sought to describe MH perspectives and practices among AYAs in rural Haiti.
We conducted a cross-sectional survey in two rural communities in Haiti. AYA females aged 14–24 years completed questions on demographics, the Menstrual Practice Needs Scale (36 items; MPNS-36) and the Menstrual Practices Questionnaire (4 items). We performed descriptive statistics and Chi square or Fisher’s Exact tests to compare responses among sub-groups.
Among 200 respondents, the median age was 20 years (IQR 17–22). 51% (95% CI 44%, 58%; 102/200) were currently attending school at least 3 days/week and 97% (94%, 99%; 193/200) were not married. According to the MPNS-36, 68% (62%, 74%; 136/200) of participants had unmet MH needs. Seventy-one (77%) reused some of their menstrual materials during their last menstruation. During their last menstruation, 44% (37%, 50%; 87/200) reported they often or always skipped school because they had their menses, and 31% (25%, 37%; 62/200) sometimes skipped. Many felt always or often worried that someone or something would harm them while they were changing their menstrual materials at home and at school.
Among AYAs in rural Haiti, three-quarters reported menses-related school absenteeism and two-thirds had unmet MH needs. AYA females often lacked a safe environment to change their menstrual materials. Given recent disasters in Haiti, (August 2021 earthquake), safe environments for MH are critically needed to offset risk for poor psychosocial and health outcomes. Future efforts to improve MH among AYAs in Haiti are needed to ensure access to MH resources and school attendance.