What happens when accessing basic hygiene products and necessities is an everyday struggle?

By Christa Davis and Dr. Maria Lourdes F. Reyes

We’ve all experienced the discomfort of a hygiene “incident”: running out of soap before showering, forgetting to brush our teeth, or needing to change our baby’s diaper only to realize we’ve used the last diaper in the pack! These occurrences are annoying, but also manageable.

But what happens when accessing basic hygiene products and necessities is an everyday struggle? This is the reality millions of mothers, children and families across the world, including the United States.

Nearly one in three low-income families find it difficult to afford basic household necessities and nearly three in four low-income families report cutting back on food in order to afford household goods in the United States. [1] In order to make ends meet, these families report having to bathe without soap, reuse diapers and wash only the children’s clothes in an effort to promote good hygiene among their children. [2]

Fulfilling basic hygiene needs are essential building blocks to living productive and healthy lives. A mother needs a reliable supply of diapers in order to send her child to childcare, therefore enabling her to work and earn an income. A child must be fed and comfortable so he or she can learn in school. A family requires soap in order to keep themselves clean and presentable for employment.

One of President Obama’s favorite projects!

During the SXSW interview the President remarked “One of my favorite projects that’s just gotten started over the last several months is — diapers are really expensive, and we’ve actually set up a system whereby through social media and the Internet, non-for-profits are able to make bulk purchases of diapers, save 25 percent on those, so that they can distribute them to low-income moms and families. And it’s a convergence of diaper makers and logistics companies and Internet companies. And we sort of convened the thing, but it’s not running through a government program. “