Pandemic preparedness with handwashing

What does HappyTap have to do with COVID-19?

Hygiene infrastructure 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

  • registered operating companies in Bangladesh, Cambodia, and Vietnam;
  • shipping products globally;
  • 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 South Asia & Southeast Asia

  • discussing with the governments and 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.)
  • planning how to include essential (individual, not group) hygiene facilities in mass COVID-19 response campaigns for:
    • healthcare facilities;
    • schools;
    • informal settlements;
    • quarantine / isolation sites;
    • refugee camps; and
    • households
  • coordinating with INGOs and UN agencies to integrate hygiene activities within broader public health guidance and efforts (e.g. providing essential hygiene supplies alongside PPE to healthcare facilities)


  • offer handwashing stations in bulk, by container load for export to seaports worldwide (departing Chittagong & Ho Chi Minh City)
  • localized products with customized design, packaging, and instructional materials
  • recruit partners to provide fulfillment services for eCommerce platforms in India, the Philippines, and Indonesia

How HappyTap can help, right now

Equip all healthcare facilities that lack hygiene facilities

  • for doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers
  • for patients and their families
  • no regrets option – even if only as a stop-gap measure until fixed handwashing stations are installed
    • only 43% of healthcare facilities in developing countries have HW facilities
    • testing in Cambodia by Emory University & WaterAid yielded positive results

Offer discount to households purchasing handwashing stations

  • during the current outbreak, HappyTap is decreasing the cost to help households quickly adopt necessary infrastructure

Forming new partnerships and channels

  • mobile operators, MFIs, ride-hailing and delivery companies, factories, etc. can all join the effort to enable handwashing by those who need it

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

  • there is a risk of successive waves of infection when suppression measures are eased
  • having handwashing stations in place to mitigate future transmission will be critical (in schools, households, and healthcare facilities)

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?


  • 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