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SaniTaps: Soiled Filters, Unsoiled Hands



Mirabelle Scholten, Ellen Oudshoorn, Vera Lovei, and Vito F.


Simavi is a Dutch NGO, focusing on structural improvements to health in Asia and Africa. As part of their COVID-19 mitigation program, our group was tasked with introducing a creative solution to the slowly unfolding pandemic situation in Western Uganda, specifically in the regions of Bundibugyo and Ntoroko. Like everyone else around the world, Simavi was looking for novel ways to reduce the impact of the coronavirus and we were ready to put our brains and hands to work and present an impactful solution.


From extensive literature and context research into Western Uganda and COVID-19, we identified hand washing as an important method to both combat the current pandemic and other WaSH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) related outbreaks that commonly affect the area. Although low-cost handwashing stations are readily available in the target regions, a closer look at the current systems presented a new problem; washing one's hands with unclean water can increase the risk of water-borne illnesses. Therefore, we have designed a locally producible modification to the common handwashing station, the tippy tap, which offers filtered hand washing water to improve local hygiene access. These modifications, known as SaniTaps, are designed to be constructed from mostly natural or recycled materials to reduce its environmental and economic burden. Furthermore, the design focuses on allowing local entrepreneur groups to create their own small businesses creating and repairing SaniTaps to foster economic opportunities for exceedingly marginalized groups. To support the design, a construction manual, a sustainable business model, and a promotional video have also been created.



Throughout the first quartile, we spent our time gathering much-needed information and contextual knowledge in order to kick off our project. Our research and conversations with pertinent stakeholders around the world provided us with relevant details about Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WaSH) initiatives and the associated global, as well as local challenges to successful WaSH implementation. Further, we developed a deeper virological, epidemiological, and social understanding of COVID-19 beyond the superficial conception gained through mass media. Lastly, we delved deep into scientific literature and expert opinions on behavior change and its driving psychological mechanisms. Through these diverging, yet intertwined, topics we identified several pathways and solutions in order to combat COVID-19, as well as other, often more deadly and threatening, diseases in the Western Ugandan regions.



Our research made it clear that, while COVID-19 is a threatening issue in Western Uganda, some of the challenges locals are struggling with on a daily basis are much more pressing and demand immediate attention. For this reason, the solution pathway chosen by our contacts at Simavi aims to make handwashing practices - a preventive measure against the coronavirus - safe and pathogen-free. We created a design for a ceramic filter, which can be integrated into the currently used handwashing stations, the tippy taps. Quartile 2 was spent perfecting and prototyping this filter, the SaniTaps: a ceramic filter disc, made primarily of naturally occurring and recycled materials (clay and sawdust), that helps filter harmful pathogens from contaminated hand washing water.


The third and final quartile of our work was focused on making the SaniTaps ready ‘for the world’. This entailed testing the tippy tap modification designed in quartile 2 for the appropriate filter flow rate, the structural integrity of the system, and the communication of the construction manual. Furthermore, the design was modified based on the test results and the input of WASEU, a Ugandan Entrepreneur NGO.  Alongside the technical design of the SaniTaps, a triple-layer business model was conceptualized to help realize how the design can be implemented into society. Lastly, a 6-minute animated video has been created to be used for the promotion of the SaniTaps’ design and the process undertaken.

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