HAVANA, Jan 20 (EFE) Ensuring enough feminine pads (sanitary napkins or pads) for the menstrual period has become a real headache for more and more Cubans in recent months.
With the persistent crisis that plagues the country, more than three million Cuban women have to “invent” every month due to the shortage of this essential product, which has disappeared from state pharmacies and is only found at high prices in stores in foreign currency. and reseller businesses.
“It is overwhelming to get the intimate ones – as sanitary pads are popularly known in Cuba – and also to have them last for the entire period,” young Yanet Hernández tells EFE.
This 31-year-old Havana resident is a cashier at a store in MLC, a Cuban virtual currency referenced to the dollar. Her monthly salary does not reach 3,000 Cuban pesos (CUP), about 25 dollars at the official exchange rate, but barely 11 in the informal market, where the greenback is currently trading at 275 CUP.
“I can’t count because my period is heavy and I use two packages of underwear in each cycle. There is something there (in the currency stores), that costs 5 MLC or more, so I have to invent: clothes, cotton, or whatever appears. Add to that the stress of watching if I get dirty,” she laments.
The product can easily reach between 400 and 600 pesos on internet sales pages and in some small and medium-sized companies that import them.
The situation is more bearable for Carla Brito, who can afford to pay the pillows in dollars or Cuban pesos to internet resellers thanks to her work as a tour operator in an English tourism agency.
This 37-year-old Cuban explains to EFE that she “never” had enough of “the intimate ones sold in the pharmacy,” which correspond to each Cuban between 10 and 55 years old based on the supplied booklet (ration card), an amount fixed and at constant prices for years.
To be able to buy them this way, Cuban women must register each year at the pharmacy as a sign that they continue to need the product. Delivery is every eight cycles – or rounds as they popularly call it -, although the period lasts 12 months of the year.
“That’s not to mention that they are terrible: they don’t stick well, they are super thin and they only give you a package with 10 (units) for each woman in the family,” explains Brito.
Experts, for their part, advise changing the pad about four times a day in a normal menstrual cycle.
The “butterfly” brand pads, of national production, cost 1.20 Cuban pesos (less than a cent on the dollar at the official exchange rate). They were sold freely, but they have practically disappeared from the Cuban pharmacy network.
The only company that manufactures them in Cuba is the state-owned Sanitary Hygienic Materials (Mathisa), with headquarters in Havana, Sancti Spíritus (center) and Granma (east).
Its production, like so many others in Cuba currently, is plagued with problems, mainly because eight of the ten inputs necessary for manufacturing are imported, according to official data.
The lack of materials paralyzed Mathisa’s production in Sancti Spíritus for several months last year. In August it delivered just 208,000 packages, less than 20% of the average monthly production of previous years.
The director of this factory, Ángel Pozo, then declared to the local newspaper Escambray that it was “impossible” to reverse this delay and that, between the three plants in the country, they aspired to manufacture three million packages between October and December, when only his factory was already was capable of achieving that amount before.
It has not been published whether they succeeded or what the annual production of pads was. EFE asked the sector authorities for production data in the rest of the Cuban factories but did not receive a response.
Last December, the state press reported that the Italian-Cuban company Industria Arthis S.A. began producing Angélica brand sanitary pads to sell them in Cuban pesos and MLC.
The official Cubadebate website reported that this joint company would market the wingless pads in packages of 36 units in stores in national currency.
But the headache for Yanet, Carla and more than three million Cuban women has not yet subsided.