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Menstrual Health Experiences of People with Intellectual Disabilities and Their Caregivers during Vanuatu’s Humanitarian Responses: A Qualitative Study

Attention to menstrual health in humanitarian responses is increasing, but evidence related to people with intellectual disabilities and their caregivers is absent. This study begins to address that. We applied purposive sampling to select 17 women and girls (aged 15–31) with intellectual disabilities, their 17 caregivers in SANMA province, Vanuatu, and seven key informants. We used in-depth interviews, PhotoVoice and ranking, and observation and analysed data thematically using Nvivo 12. We found that caregivers wished to maintain the person’s safety and privacy, especially when menstruating, which reduced evacuation options. People with intellectual disabilities support requirements sometimes increased after emergencies. This meant caregivers were less able to work and recover from disasters. Caregivers requested the distribution of more reusable menstrual materials and a greater choice, including adult-sized diapers for menstruation and incontinence. Key informants noted that menstrual health interventions must always be delivered to people with intellectual disabilities and their caregivers so that menstrual health knowledge and practices exist before emergencies. We found that men and women supported people with intellectual disabilities’ menstrual health, thus challenging gendered assumptions about caregiving. Efforts to achieve menstrual health for this population within disaster preparedness plans must be included. If not, families will fall further into poverty every time a disaster hits Vanuatu.

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