Primary-school children get hit the hardest by the lack of clean water. The consequence is diarrhoeal disease which kills 5,000 children a day. The simple act of washing hands with soap and water could alone cut this figure by almost a half. It is the best way to prevent distribution of bacteria.
Safi is targeting communities that do not hand-wash regularly, but who do have safe water available. Therefore, its alternative, for most communities, would be not washing hands at all.
There are some communities who do wash their hands on a regular basis, and these are some of the ways they do:
Taps and sinks (as used in the US and Europe) These are quite rare, and usually subsidized by external/ international NFP organizations. Local schools and communities usually don’t have the means of purchasing such ‘extravagant’ equipment. As well as that, materials and molds necessary are not sourced or manufactured in the locations in which they are distributed, leading to foreign dependency.
Tippy Taps are made by hanging up a plastic container and punching a whole in it. Even though this system is very economical, it is also very low-tech; water keeps pouring out as children rotate and does not allow for an individualized hand-washing situation (i.e. when one child returns from the bathroom and needs to wash hands individually) It also does not take any consideration of grey water (although sometimes plants are being placed under the Tippy Tap). There is no control over the amount of time or water quantity every child uses. As well as that, the system is dependant on bar soap (that is commonly used in the US and Europe), which is in most cases too expensive for schools to purchase, as a bar of soap costs about US$1 (almost half the world’s population lives on less than a dollar a day)
Bobo Tap This is a system that my contact in Madagascar familiarized me with; The local village builds large, earthenware clay pots with a lid and a tap (metal, commonly used in US and Europe) that is inserted when ‘leather-hard’. The clay is not costly, but the tap costs around US$4. Much like the Tippy Tap, water flow and quantity is not being controlled, grey water is not being considered and soap is again a challenge.
In a river/ bucket When the above are not available, communities resort to washing their hands in the river stream (might be far, and therefore reduce the hand washing rate and effectiveness). Some communities who do have a well/ other water sources but no hand washing facilities. Some wash their hands in a bucket together. This is not a very good idea, as bacteria and germs are then spreading from one person to the other.
In conclusion: Safi’s advantages
- Measured water quantity (50ml) is used for every hand wash
- Water is dripping over a measured time of 20 seconds per child
- Grey water is being collected and used to grow Soapy plants as well as other garden plants
- Soapy plants are being grown on location as a soap alternative, making Safi self reliant
- Open-source system allows communities to build most components of Safi themselves, lowering its price.
- Safi is targeting communities who do have near by water sources and therefore is on-location in the school
- Safi depends on growing plants and supports a vegetable garden that will be taken care of by the children themselves, which will teach them valuable lessons.
- Safi can be ‘turned off and on’ when needed, so it therefore supports both single-time hand washing needs and mass-needs.