From town criers to running taps on rickshaws, this Global Handwashing Day WaterAid looks at how people around the world have created access to handwashing during COVID-19

3 min read
Young boy washing is hands on a rickshaw tap

Today is Global Handwashing Day, and the current COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the critical role hand hygiene plays in disease transmission, with one study finding regular handwashing with soap can reduce the likelihood of COVID-19 infection by 36%.

Yet despite handwashing with soap being the first line of defence against COVID-19, 40% of the world’s population lack access to handwashing facilities, meaning they cannot wash their hands to protect themselves and their families.

That is why this Global Handwashing Day, we invite you to take a trip with us to our global country programs, as we share inspiring stories of how vulnerable and marginalised people have created access to handwashing.

Rosie Wheen, CE, WaterAid Australia, said: “We’ve seen handwashing thrown into the spotlight as one of the key ways to help slow the spread of COVID-19. However, billions of people worldwide can’t do this, as they simply do not have access to soap or water. That’s why it’s so inspiring to see how people around the world have created access to handwashing in their communities, and why WaterAid’s work to bring clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene is as important as it has always been.”

WaterAid India knew they needed to get innovative to deliver water to those who needed it. Enter, mobile handwashing stations attached to rickshaws! This system allows water and soap to reach more people across India with lifesaving handwashing facilities. The mobile handwashing units require just a small pipe, two end caps and a water tap. The pipe holds the water and has a water tap on the bottom, with liquid handwash secured by tape. The unit can hold almost 5 litres of water, sufficient for 12-15 washes!

Young boy washing is hands on a rickshaw tap
WaterAid India

A little friendly competition is always sure to get people inspired! That’s why WaterAid Myanmar organised a competition to build Tippy-Taps in three villages, with the winners receiving communal funds for their village to further develop WASH projects. Tippy-Taps are a simple device for handwashing with running water, where a container of water is tipped with a stick and tied by a rope. As soap is the only thing touched by hands, the device is very hygienic. In each village, over 300 households built their own Tippy-Taps, recognising the importance of hygiene in the context of COVID-19.

Young boy washing his hands at a local Tippy Tap

The WaterAid Zambia team launched one of the first inclusive universal handwashing stations to include access for people living with a disability, particularly wheelchair users and those unable to use the foot-operated handwashing stations. By removing the foot pump and creating a wider space to accommodate a wheelchair, the universal handwashing station allows everyone access to wash their hands. Not only this, but the team also used drones to fly over urban areas delivering COVID-19 hygiene messages, using the drone to write messages the skies!

A universal handwashing station that enables people in wheelchairs to wash their hands

Deploying traditional methods of communications, WaterAid Sierra Leone deployed town criers to rural areas to deliver hygiene messages and answer questions in local languages. The town criers were trained on hygiene and COVID-19 hygiene information by WaterAid, and went village to village explaining hygiene messages through the loudspeaker in order to reach more people at once.

A man with a loud hailer spreads covid 19 awareness in a rural village
WaterAid/Sierra Leon

It is not only access to water that is needed to wash your hands, soap is a crucial element too. That is why WaterAid Papua New Guinea created soap making workshops, where they can teach communities how to make soap out of locally available products, like coconut oil mixed with caustic soda!

soap making in PNG
WaterAid/ Papua New Guinea