The coronavirus pandemic disrupted the world as we knew it only five years into the UN’s fifteen-year-long Sustainable Development Goals campaign, which aims to accomplish a set of seventeen goals by 2030. Goal number six of the Sustainable Development Goals campaign, increasing reasonable access for all to clean water and sanitation, is still a work in progress, despite years of work on improving access and implementing solutions.
Although the spread of diseases, like Ebola, have emphasized the need for the development of long-term global WASH solutions in the past, the coronavirus pandemic has created unprecedented urgency for solutions to be created now. Sometimes though, urgency brings a challenge that can drive the most meaningful innovation. In today’s post, we will highlight a few examples of how the pandemic drove innovative solutions to bring WASH resources to vulnerable populations.
Pedal Operated Handwashing Machines
A 9-year-old boy in Western Kenya was inspired during the coronavirus pandemic to create a simple machine to assist in safe hygiene practices. The machine adapts a simple container-based handwashing station to be foot-pedal operated for dispensing soap and water. The invention allows users to wash their hands without ever touching any of the station’s surfaces with their hands, which allows for the minimal transmission of germs and encourages frequent hand washing.
Thatched Roof Sanitation and Hygiene Huts in Rural Nigeria
An educational program lead by the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) was quickly followed by the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic for Mr. Sesugh Iorkyoor, a man living in rural Nigeria where access to WASH is minimal. Empowered by the education he received from WSSCC, Mr. Iorkyoor decided to build a sanitary latrine for his family to use; then, as the coronavirus spread, he added a hygiene station to the outside of the latrine to protect himself and his family from illnesses. The facility is a single-person, cylindrical structure with a thatch roof and clay walls that house a latrine inside and a handwashing station on the outside. Since Iorkyoor constructed his first sanitation and hygiene hut, he has been able to convince other members of the community to follow suit.
Increasing Access to Handwashing in a Pandemic: Safe Hands Kenya
Safe Hands Kenya (SHK) was created in response to the need to curb the spread of the coronavirus in Kenya. Founded by Dalberg and KOKO Networks, Safe Hands Kenya is made up of over 30 local, private companies and social enterprises that have banded together to disseminate sanitation resources in Kenya.
Participant organizations have paused profit-seeking and shifted focus solely to distributing soap, handwashing stations, and masks at no cost to the consumer. Beyond this, SHK is disinfecting public spaces and educating Kenyans on the importance of each person doing their part to curb the spread of the virus through frequent handwashing and wearing masks. The educational campaign is being promoted through the hashtag #TibaNiSisi, which means “We are the Cure” in Swahili. The campaign is focused on empowering Kenyans to understand that their actions can protect them and their loved ones from COVID-19. The organization has prioritized working first in areas of Kenya with the most vulnerable populations, like the densely populated urban centers comprised of mostly low income, informal workers.
WASH Sector Innovations During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Creating solutions to complex problems under intense pressure, like that of the coronavirus, can be daunting but also can lead to meaningful and long-lasting progress. The important work that we discussed in this post provides just a few examples of how humans around the world are coming together during the coronavirus pandemic to increase access to hygiene resources for vulnerable populations. Additionally, without a timeline on when a vaccine will be available, there is still valuable time left for more innovative solutions to be created.
At GeoPoll, we strongly believe in utilizing our resources and know-how as data collection experts to assist in times of humanitarian crisis. For this reason, we have publicly released results from various studies conducted during the coronavirus crisis to facilitate organizations in their humanitarian work. Our studies include results on handwashing frequency, quarantining behavior, concern surrounding the virus, and even how the crisis has affected finances for people in sub-Saharan Africa. Please contact us if you have any questions about the studies or capabilities for future projects.