When Super Cyclone Amphan hit India’s coast in 2020, 28-year-old Suchita Jana, along with her family, moved to a government shelter where she found herself among the 800-odd people taking refuge at the camp.
While she stayed at the cramped school-turned-shelter for only 20 days, her ordeal lasted for months. After the cyclone, Jana found out that she had developed a vaginal infection.
“The infection lasted for 6-7 months. I had a severe burning sensation and a strong odor which was very uncomfortable to bear,” said Jana, a resident of Khetramohanpur village in the Pathar Pratima block of 24 South Paraganas district, which lies along the coast of India’s West Bengal state.
The shelter, where Jana stayed with her family, had just four toilets for the hundreds of people who sought protection from the cyclone and both men and women used the same washrooms.Alson Read | India@75 Looking at 100: The country of my dreams prioritises menstrual health
“We would need to stand for hours in line to be able to use the toilet which was very filthy,” Jana said, adding that access to water was a huge issue because “there was just one tubewell for all the people at the shelter.”
During the cyclone, when Jana had her periods, she went on to use pieces of cloth for days at a time because she could not get sanitary napkins and there was no place to wash or dry the material at the shelter.
“We used to first stand in line for water and then for using the toilets. It used to take hours of our day.”Advertisement
When months of medication prescribed at the block hospital didn’t help Jana, she consulted doctors in the state’s capital, Kolkata — where she would arrive after a six-hour journey crossing multiple river