How people without running water can wash their hands

tap waters

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Emma Charlton, Senior Writer, Formative Content


  • A “tippy tap” offers a way to wash hands when there’s no running water.
  • As many as two in every five people don’t have access to basic handwashing facilities.
  • Washing hands can cut viral spread by more than 50%.

Being able to wash your hands is taken for granted in the developed world. It’s a key element in the strategy to stem the spread of COVID-19. But what if you live somewhere with no running water?

This is the reality facing many people in developing countries. Now, the World Health Organization (WHO) has released a video showing how to make a “tippy tap” that offers a simple, safe way to clean your hands.

Assembled easily and operated by a foot pedal, the tippy tap is a hands-free device made from everyday materials. The only thing the user touches is a bar of soap suspended from a string.

Make your own.
Image: Watershed Management Group

As many as two in every five people don’t have access to basic handwashing facilities, UNICEF estimates. Regions with the lowest coverage of “improved” sanitation are sub-Saharan Africa, Southern Asia and Eastern Asia, according to the WHO and UNICEF.

Much of the world doesn’t have access to handwashing facilities.
Image: UNICEF

With the COVID-19 pandemic gripping the planet, the WHO advises everyone to regularly and thoroughly clean their hands with an alcohol-based hand rub, or soap and water. It’s one of the best ways to kill any pathogens that may be on your hands.

What is the World Economic Forum doing about the coronavirus outbreak?

A new strain of Coronavirus, COVID 19, is spreading around the world, causing deaths and major disruption to the global economy.

Responding to this crisis requires global cooperation among governments, international organizations and the business community, which is at the centre of the World Economic Forum’s mission as the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation.

The Forum has created the COVID Action Platform, a global platform to convene the business community for collective action, protect people’s livelihoods and facilitate business continuity, and mobilize support for the COVID-19 response. The platform is created with the support of the World Health Organization and is open to all businesses and industry groups, as well as other stakeholders, aiming to integrate and inform joint action.

As an organization, the Forum has a track record of supporting efforts to contain epidemics. In 2017, at our Annual Meeting, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) was launched – bringing together experts from government, business, health, academia and civil society to accelerate the development of vaccines. CEPI is currently supporting the race to develop a vaccine against this strand of the coronavirus.

COVID-19 handwashing advice.
Image: WHO

Handwashing can be a critical measure in controlling pandemics, according to research. Studies carried out during the 2006 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) suggest that washing hands more than 10 times a day cut the spread of the virus by more than 50%. Tippy taps could make handwashing more widely available, helping to stem the spread of COVID-19 more quickly.

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