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22.03.2022 - News

Always clean water for washing your hands

For World Water Day, we present an innovation that was implemented by our teams on site.

Turning the tap and seeing clean water flowing at will... What seems obvious in many countries is not so in all contexts. Handwashing is one of the most important ways to stop the spread of viruses. But how do you do this when you are in an arid area, a camp for displaced persons or a school without a connection to running water? 

A curious installation in the Macina health centre in Mali: a large black cube one metre high, with a built-in sink and tap. To turn on the water supply, all you have to do is put your foot on a pedal. On closer inspection, the cube is not connected to the pipes. You can simply lift it up and move it to another room. 

This installation is called Gravit'eau, a system that allows water to be reused in a closed circuit. Once it has been used, the water flows into a first tank that removes residues and grease. It then passes through a filter membrane so fine that it prevents bacteria and viruses from passing through. At the end of this process, the water is 99.9% purified and, thanks to the foot pump, is returned to the tap for reuse.

"Every day when I arrive at school, I line up to wash my hands before going to class. If there are smaller children, I help them pump the water with my foot while they wash their hands. We also wash our hands during breaks and after school", Baba, 10 years old, Nigeria.

Gravit'eau is proving very useful in places that are not connected to running water. Terre des hommes will install about 150 more in Mali, Burkina Faso and Nigeria. This work is done in partnership with the Swiss association Gravit'eau and the FHNW. Each location has its own specificities. In health centres, these mobile sinks have to be small enough to fit through doors. In IDP camps, they have four taps and in schools, they are adapted to the size of the children. These systems are built locally, using local materials - except for the filters and foot pump, which are imported from Switzerland. At the same time, our teams educate staff and communities about the importance of hand washing and how to do it effectively.

And the results speak for themselves. Compared to a normal sink, with the same amount of water, the number of hand washes can be multiplied by 100! For a school with 500 children, Gravit'eau saves 6000 litres of water per month. This represents significant water savings that reduce the ecological impact of this crucial gesture.

“This system was installed two years ago. The children have learned to wash their hands. Since then, there have been no cases of cholera", says Bilama Ibrahim, a community leader in Nigeria.

Crédits photos: ©Tdh

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