British university student is among volunteers tackling period poverty among Ukrainian refugees.
Ella Lambert, 22, is coordinating the distribution of thousands of disposable pads to hospitals in the war-torn nation and to women in refugee camps.
The University of Bristol student founded the non-profit Pachamama Project – which provides period products to camps in Lebanon, Afghanistan and Uganda – after learning how to sew reusable pads over lockdown.
It has since snowballed into a global network of more than 1,000 volunteers.
This week, Ms Lambert distributed 1,000 pads at the Global Expo centre and Ptak Expo centre, both in Warsaw, before coordinating efforts to secure a larger supply alongside Florida-based non-profit, Pads4Refugees, run by Melissa Robel, 42.
Speaking from Poland, Ms Lambert told the PA news agency: “The need for sanitary products is huge.
“Talking to the women and hearing their stories first hand, we know exactly how much people need them.
“You could say it’s the least of their worries, but if you’ve got people in the Metro station without products who are on their period, that’s a huge additional challenge to deal with when they are just trying to reach safety.
“They don’t have proper washing facilities so we are handing out disposable products.
“They also have a minimum amount of clothes, and if they bleed through them, that’s a terrible situation to be in.”
Ms Lambert said organisations with a focus on feminine hygiene are needed alongside general aid charities because the stigma surrounding periods prevents some women from accessing the products.
The languages student, from Chelmsford in Essex, told PA: “We were speaking to an organisation today who were in the Metro station and someone saw a pack of pads in their bag, and they whispered: ‘Do you mind if I have one?’
“They asked all her friends if they had pads, and none of them had any.
“It’s quite easy to go up to someone and say: ‘I could do with some food’, or: ‘I need a place to sleep’, but people don’t feel comfortable asking for sanitary products, especially if they’ve already bled through their clothes.
“It’s very dehumanising.
“I think it helps that we are a period poverty organisation, so I will introduce myself as that.”
The Pachamama Project and Pads4Refugees have also distributed 3,000 reusable pads to hospitals in Lviv, western Ukraine, which were transported by Polish charity the Yorghas Foundation this week.
Miss Lambert said many women have lived in the camps for several weeks, because they plan to return to Ukraine when it is safer, so a constant supply of essentials is needed in the border countries.
The women are paying for the pads through donations to a fundraiser, which can be accessed here – https://pads4refugees.org/