Wash’Em – How to design handwashing facilities that change behaviour

How to design handwashing facilities that change behaviour. WASH’Em, August 2019.

In a crisis, humanitarians are often responsible for providing or repairing handwashing infrastructure for the affected population. This creates an opportunity for us to build infrastructure and provide products which encourage people to practice handwashing with soap. washem-logo

Why are handwashing facilities important?
Did you know that having a handwashing facility makes you 50% more likely to wash your hands? If it is conveniently placed near the toilet or kitchen and has soap and water available, then people are up to 80% more likely to practice handwashing.

There are several reasons why handwashing facilities can have an important effect on behaviour. Imagine you are leaving the toilet. If you see a handwashing facility, this is likely to act as a trigger, reminding you to wash your hands. If you don’t see a handwashing facility you might get distracted with other things and forget to wash hands.

Even if you did want to wash your hands where there was no handwashing facility present, you would probably have to go to a lot more effort to walk to somewhere that has soap and water. In the process you may touch and contaminate lots of other
surfaces.

Often the level of effort required would act as a barrier to regular handwashing.
As humanitarians it is unethical and a waste of resources to do hygiene promotion if handwashing facilities, soap and water are not readily available to the population. In the acute phase of a crisis, handwashing infrastructure and products must be our first priority.

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