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Friday, 17th July 2020

Contactless Handwashing at SEED

By Kirsty Solomons

Since the coronavirus pandemic started earlier this year, SEED has looked at new ways to protect our staff and the community of Fort Dauphin. Back in March, the introduction of mandatory handwashing before entering the office was an essential part of our preparations. Regular use of the outside handwashing station, which was a jerry can of water and soap bar, was adopted into daily routine.

Vayah using the new handwashing system at the SEED office
Vayah using the new handwashing system at the SEED office

Lomba, head of construction, wanted to improve SEED’s handwashing station by creating a pedal-operated tap system, with a simple mechanism that reduces human contact. With many years of experience in water infrastructure, he used simple materials to create a prototype model which was installed at the entrance to the SEED office. The push taps by foot pedal are more hygienic than the old system, as the user does not have to touch the tap after they have washed their hands. This prototype was designed with the community in mind, with a user-friendly design that does not require difficult installation, can easily be moved around, and uses low-cost materials. Lomba based the initial design on a model shown in a compendium of hand washing systems for low-resource settings, however he had to adapt the pedal/pivot mechanism because Fort Dauphin did not have the exact materials.

This system can be easily copied by people who are fighting against any disease that can be prevented by washing your hands.

Lomba Hasoavana, Head of Construction


Lomba introduces his design and discusses the adaptations

After a week of use, staff reported that they preferred to use the new model as it is safer and faster! However, the team found that the tank needed filling regularly as it only had the capacity of a two-litre bottle. This trial run led to the development of version 2.0, which was fitted with a larger container, meaning it had to be filled with water less often. Lomba then made further adaptations to the design based on feedback from the office team. He broadened the foot pedal so it is easier to step on, increased the height of the system so people don't have to crouch as much when washing their hands, and fitted a small pipe to the tap to reduce the amount of water splashing on people's feet. Version three has been the most innovative yet, using springs from a bicycle kick stand and a mattress in the tap mechanism and the foot pedal.

I would like to make hand washing fun! By creating new things, it will make people want to wash their hands more. The prototype is going well at the office, but I think school kids will love it more.

SEED is continuing to develop this idea and working to overcome challenges in the resource-limited environment of Fort-Dauphin. We are excited at the potential of scaling up the contactless system to community level in our COVID response projects.