"When talking about handwashing, perhaps there is too much emphasis on education only"


This article was written by Teije Brandsma, author and creator of Dutch website, Aid Publicity

According to Eric Fewster, IDPs and refugees are not washing their hands, which is often because they don't have anything to wash their hands with, rather than not knowing about the importance of handwashing. "Perhaps, there is currently too much emphasis within WASH programs on education alone, and not enough on the hardware component", says Fewster, co-founder of Madagascan low-cost water drilling innovator, BushProof.

Eric Fewster hosting BushProof WASH training in Madagascar

Eric Fewster hosting BushProof WASH training in Madagascar


Fewster, born in the UK, has been working for more than twenty years as a specialist in water and sanitation, and his work has taken him to many places including South Sudan, Madagascar, Pakistan and Afghanistan. His conclusion: education and technical solutions need to go hand in hand. "In the field, there might be too much focus only on the education side of things, whilst not considering that householders don't have any hardware to practice handwashing with"

"That's not to say that education is not important - for sure one of the biggest challenges to getting people to actually carry out handwashing is related to knowing about handwashing and why it is important - no doubt about that. But we also need to think practically about what people will actually use on a daily basis to carry this out."

Another lesson Fewster has learned is that many programs focus on putting a handwashing station just near the toilet. But that is not enough in practice to assure handwashing occurs at all critical times. The kitchen is another crucial place. "Even if it is just 15 meters away from the toilet, there should still be a possibility to clean your hands at a central point in the household itself as well. The focus is now most of the time on toilets - but the place where food is prepared, where people eat and where children are cleaned tends to be forgotten."

Eric Fewster is co-founder of award-winning enterprise, BushProof, which he founded in partnership with Adriaan Mol. Together they are co-inventors of the predecessor of the SaniTap. BushProof specialises in groundwater exploitation, including cost-effective drilling, handpump manufacture and custom water supply technologies for remote areas across Africa and Asia. 

Teije BrandsmaComment