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Pandemic preparedness with handwashing

What does HappyTap have to do with COVID-19?

HappyTap is part of the long-term defense against pandemics like COVID-19, and many other infectious diseases

  • Handwashing is undoubtedly important – the first and best line of defense
  • But it’s not our product that’s important. We are trying to build a market for handwashing enabling technology.
  • We need a product category of affordable portable sinks that support good hygiene habits
    • not do-it-yourself solutions with recycled materials, but devices that encourage sustained adoption
  • We welcome other producers to introduce a range of competing or complementary products to grow the market

 

HappyTap Pte. Ltd. is a social enterprise headquartered in Singapore

  • with operating companies in Bangladesh, Cambodia, and Vietnam
  • our current production capacity is over 2,000 units per day.

Is it enough to tell people that handwashing is important?

Sadly, no. COVID-19 has heightened the awareness of the importance of hand hygiene, but the lack of infrastructure in developing countries remains a huge problem

  • Knowledge and awareness of handwashing is necessary, but not enough for people to do it consistently
  • Infrastructure is critical – i.e. soap and water in a dedicated place:
    • the presence of a handwashing facility is the main variable associated with actual practice
    • that’s why the indicator for hygiene under SGG 6.2 measures handwashing facilities in households
    • and that’s partly why COVID-19 in low-income settings could be calamitous (BBC; The Economist)
  • We want to close the gap of handwashing facilities (see UNICEF fact sheet, 13 Mar 2020)

 

Handwashing with soap is life-saving … Yet availability of handwashing facilities in low- and middle-income countries is poor. Globally, 40% of households still don’t have handwashing facilities with soap and water, and just 19% of people wash their hands with soap after defecating. Almost half of healthcare facilities (43%) lack basic handwashing facilities with soap and water, and nearly half of schools (47%) in developing countries lack handwashing facilities. This makes good hand hygiene impossible for millions of people, contributes to the spread of infections and makes tackling this pandemic very difficult.

WaterAID blog post on WASH and COVID-19

What is HappyTap IS doing, right now

In Bangladesh

  • discussing with the Government of Bangladesh and several municipalities to roll-out handwashing stations at a large-scale in public places where transmission risk is high (e.g. wet markets, bus stations, etc.)

In Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Cambodia

  • offering handwashing stations nationwide to households through available channels, especially online, as retailers close (inquiries are rising substantially)
  • contacting potential partners to see how we can help –> we have large-scale production capacity but want to coordinate with key responders to maximize our reach to vulnerable people

Globally

  • we can export quickly to nearly anywhere, but need partners who can manage distribution

What HappyTap SHOULD do, right now

In Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Cambodia

  • immediately equip all healthcare facilities with handwashing stations
    • must happen urgently, before they become overcrowded
    • only 43% currently have HW facilities, and yet in developing countries, patient are often accompanied by family members who feed them and care for them, but who lack training and PPE – exacerbating the risks of transmission
    • testing in Cambodia by Emory University & WaterAid yielded positive results
  • offer substantial discount to households purchasing handwashing stations
    • average price now is between 15 and 18 USD
    • during COVID-19, it should be decreased substantially to help households quickly adopt the necessary infrastructure
    • should not be free in most situations, as that may lead to waste
  • bundle HW station with other essential kit to leverage distribution networks
    • not just for households, but also PPE for healthcare facilities
  • establish new partnerships for hygiene promotion and product delivery
    • e.g. mobile operators, MFIs, ride-hailing and courier companies, factories, etc.
  • export regionally and globally
    • to neighbouring countries in East Asia & Pacific, and South Asia
    • to Africa and further afield, when and where it makes sense

What HappyTap should be PLANNING:

Long-term improvements in hygiene infrastructure for when restrictions are eased, and beyond…

  • Imperial College London is modeling the expected effects of COVID-19 suppression
  • in any scenario (except the no-intervention scenario), successive waves of infection are expected when suppression measures are eased
  • at that time (e.g. as schools reopen), having handwashing stations in place to mitigate future transmission will be critical

Partner with us to do this now.

Leverage the momentum for sustainable change

Right now, with COVID-19, there is unprecedented attention on hygiene

  • There is momentum to build long-term, sustainable change in terms of behavior and systems
  • Governments and WASH agencies will need to let go of awareness-raising campaigns that are ineffective, and use what’s been learned about behaviour change to promote sustained improved practice
  • Essentially we need to leverage the humanitarian-development nexus to build longer-term structures

Researchers are working on a vaccine, so then can we go back to normal?

No!

  • Normal is:
    • only 19% of the world’s total population washing their hands properly
    • only 2% of Bangladeshi healthcare working washing their hands before patient contact; JMP (2019)
    • more than 700,000 children dying per year from diarrhea
  • We can’t:
    • make vaccines for everything, nor can they be made quickly and cheaply
    • give hand sanitizer to everyone. Not only is it infeasible, it’s a safety hazard for small children
    • ask residents in a Dhaka slum to work from home, order food online, and watch streaming videos until the pandemic has passed
  • We need system-level change:
    • improved hygiene infrastructure in developing countries
    • changed norms of hygiene behaviour to sustain improved habits