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Self-supporting handwashing solutions to fight COVID-19

Published on: 13/05/2020

The Smart Hygiene Solutions booklet has been updated with solutions in times of COVID-19.

This article was originally published on the Dutch Water Sector website.

Using a tippy tap in Rwanda (photo: Dick de Jong)

A simple soap dispenser on a water pump or a water bucket made out of a plastic bottle. Handwashing is one of the easiest ways to slow down the spreading of COVID-19. Only very little water and self-made soap is needed.

This is advocated by Smart Centre Group, a Dutch foundation that runs several WASH training centres in Africa for supplying low cost water and sanitation facilities.

No running water

The foundation recently issued an updated version of a booklet on low-cost local hygiene options for handwashing to fight COVID-19 in areas where there is no piped water supply. Handwashing is easier said than done in many rural African areas or slums. The availability of and access to water and soap has always been a serious issue. In the booklet by Smart Centre Group many cheap options are suggested for local welders or families to produce themselves.

The home-based and self-supporting handwashing options can release the pressure on large community drinking water facilities to expand their handwashing capacity.

Much attention for handwashing

“At our centres, we notice that the fight against COVID-19 raises much attention for handwashing”, says coordinator Reinier Veldman of Smart Centre Group with training centres on WASH technologies in Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia. Handwashing is not new to them. “It has always been high on our agenda because waterborne diseases such as diarrhoea and cholera can spread easily in contaminated water”, adds Veldman.


In a recent webinar both Reinier Veldman and Henk Holtslag highlighted the potential of locally produced WASH-technologies, related to fighting COVID-19. Their centres are used to work with simple options for local people so rural communities become less dependent on uncertain water and soap supplies from far-away places.

At the centres local entrepreneurs are trained to develop, produce, sell, install and maintain their own wash facilities, like hand drilled wells, water tanks made from bricks, rope pumps made from local materials, home-made soap from banana leaves and households filters.

Vocational training at the Smart centre in Malawi for construction of local water and sanitation facilities, such a rope pumps. (photo: SCG)


Veldman explains that low cost technologies are a first step on the ladder. “When a family has its own well, they are able to improve their hygiene, become less sick and their health costs go down. This allows for investments in more advanced facilities such as a solar pump, a toilet or a more advanced household filter.”

“Over the years, we have learned that it all comes down to feeling responsible. Even for cheap, affordable, solutions”, explains Veldman in the webinar. “Family ownership is a very effective way to make sure a pump, household filter or toilet is repaired when it breaks down”, claims Veldman.

Vocational training of local communities on how to construct and maintain their own water facilities is one of the main activities of the smart centres. The group is expanding its activities with new centres in Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan, Niger and Nicaragua.

The updated version of the booklet SMART Hygiene Solutions in times of Corona can be downloaded (free, as a pdf) from the Smart Centre Group website:

Download it here

More information: Smart Centre Group