DIY Handwash Station Initiative: toolkit for building handwash stations in Africa

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The DIY Handwash Station Initiative, which is part of the African Water Corridor, a TU Delft initiative in which Witteveen+Bos participates, is realizing a programme to transfer knowledge about water and sanitation to as many people as possible in Africa. Whilst the current focus is on COVID-19 prevention, we also recognise that handwashing and access to sanitation is of critical importance for lowering the burden of disease in general.

Clean hands are the last line of defence to minimise the chances of infection and communication is key to ensuring awareness of the benefits and consequences of poor hygiene. The DIY Handwash Station Initiative is creating a toolkit to communicate different DIY-methodologies that aim to guide people on how to build hand wash stations with the use of local materials and craft.
The toolkit will also act as an educational tool on the sanitary practices and their importance to prevent disease. It will be embodied in both physical and digital forms, including posters, booklets and an app.

Social technology

Social technology has revolutionized in the last years and is a great way to improve communication about these essential topics. A (smartphone) application can now be developed, with the goal to create a snowball-effect of knowledge sharing between e.g. end-users, sanitation organizations and educational institutions. ‘The DIY Handwash Station Initiative wants to ensure that everyone can build their own handwashing stations’, says co-initiator Jasper Schakel from Witteveen+Bos. ‘However just providing people with the tools is not enough.  There are three things that we need to be able communicate with our end-users before our objective can fulfilled: learn why you need to wash your hands, educate how to wash your hands and provide the tools to be able to wash your hands.'

'The DIY Handwash Station Initiative wants to ensure that everyone can build their own handwashing stations.'

It is the ambitions of our Schakel together with his team to make the toolkit available in different forms like a website, web application, mobile phone application and local workshops. African software developers are employed for creating these applications since they know best what will work on the African market. The design of the toolkit will employ imagery of women, men and children with the use of symbolism to explain the designs to overcome language barriers. Written language will be translated. Illiterate people can access the knowledge. There will be decreased barriers to access.

Local context

Schakel: ‘The designs will be adapted to the local context, allowing local manufacturing, management and repair and adequate use of water and soap. Materials and parts used for the construction are available locally.’ The handwashing station can be temporary or permanent installations, which impacts the selection of materials used for construction as well as the cost and durability of the stations. ‘Temporary solutions can be constructed with low-cost materials such as a bucket or a bottle with a tap and are quick and simple to build. Permanent handwashing stations consist of a wood or steel frame, depending on the availability of materials and skills. This is to foster local market craftsmanship and provoke local social entrepreneurship’, according to Schakel.

Design drawings DIY Handwash Sations

The education material shall provide the why and the how. The education material shall be non-biased and accessible for illiterate people. Knowledge about why you should wash your hands and how shall be provided in the form of comics or animations. An example can be found below. In this comic the subject is the question “What if the virus was visible?”. In the format of a comic or animation three different scenarios are shown and the difference between the spread of a virus when people wash their hand and when people don’t is shown. A challenge is to communicate with the many different cultures we want to engage of the African continent. We are therefore extremely grateful of al the feedback we receive from our African partners of the AWC, but also many experts from the Young Expert Programme.

African Water Corridor

The African Water Corridor is a new initiative created by the TU Delft with the ambition to develop - with partners - one or more African Water Corridors, carriers for sustainable development through co-creation of innovative, open-source technologies and sustainable implantation strategies.  The AWC wants to ensure that water will no longer be a limiting factor for development of human and natural resources in Sub-Saharan Africa.  Witteveen+Bos carries similar ambitions and is therefore partnering up with the AWC.

Want to know more about this project? Please contact Jasper Schakel: or call +31 6 86 81 66 59

Find more information about our partners: 
Young Expert Programmes