An initiative to provide free sanitary products to women and girls affected by period poverty has been announced.

The initiative follows collaboration between Homeless Period Ireland, the Simon Communities of Ireland and Lidl Ireland.

Through its app, the retailer will offer a dedicated coupon for a free box of sanitary pads or tampons to every customer each month.

A quarter of donations will go towards products for the Simon Community to ensure people experiencing homelessness, who may not have access to a smartphone, can access these essential products.

Lidl Ireland will be the first major retailer to offer free period products to women and girls across the country.

Period poverty is the lack of access to sanitary products, menstrual hygiene education, toilets, hand washing facilities, and/or waste management.

Homeless Period Ireland and the Simon Communities say it is a growing issue in Ireland, particularly since the onset of the pandemic.

A study by Plan International found that almost 50% of girls aged between 12 and 19 in Ireland found it difficult to pay for sanitary products.

The initiative comes in advance of legislation and implementation of supporting measures towards period poverty in Ireland.

In November, Scotland became the first country in the world to commit to offering free period products to those who need them, with New Zealand quickly following suit following successful trials in schools last year.

The Founder of Homeless Period Ireland, which raises awareness and distributes donations to those in need of period products including direct provision centres, has welcomed the initiative.

Claire Hunt said it would ensure that those most in need will have the ability to access suitable products.

Lidl Ireland has expressed hope that it will have an impact those who would otherwise have to use less suitable materials or none.