Hand-washing device to fight water borne disease

By Nthambeleni Gabara

Pretoria - The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has developed an affordable hand-washing device for poor communities to fight and prevent water-borne diseases.

The CSIR's Ester Ngorima said in the developing world, diarrhoea and acute respiratory infections cause the death of millions of children under the age of five. Diarrhoea is estimated to kill around two to three million children annually.

Hand-washing with soap could cut these figures by half.

"Due to water scarcity, many rural and peri-urban people in South Africa face sanitation and hygiene challenges, leading to disease," said Ngorima.

The device is easy enough to use. You need an empty 2l bottle filled with clean water. The hand-washing dispenser would then be screwed into the opening of the bottle.

"The dispenser releases enough water to enable hygienic hand-washing with soap. To get the water, place your hands under the device and it lift the plunger. When you lower your hands, the device seals itself.

"The device limits water wastage, with around 30 hand washes per 2l of water. It has a soap dish and typically hangs upside down on a bracket fastened to a wall," said Ngorima.

While many people have tried using a bucket of water and a towel for hand-washing outside a toilet, the water evaporates from open buckets and the continuous use of the same water leads to contamination.

Unsupervised children and domestic animals tend to drink this water. Dust also gets into the exposed bucket of water.

More than 110 000 units of the CSIR's device have reached communities across the country. "This is mostly as part of municipalities' sanitation drives and through non-governmental organisations in the water and sanitation sector," Ngorima said.

The CSIR patented the device in 2006 and has set up a commercialisation agreement with two small, black empowerment companies that will sell and supply the device in bulk directly to clients such as municipalities, contractors and non-governmental organisations.

The two Pretoria-based licensees, who will cover all nine provinces in the country, are Zibako Trading Enterprises and Magnolia Ridge Properties.

Ngorima warns: "Experts say one gram of faeces can contain 10 million viruses, one million bacteria, one thousand parasites and one hundred worm eggs.

"This increases the risk of serious infection and contamination if one does not wash hands properly with soap after using the toilet."

The CSIR hand-washing dispenser is one of the technologies that will make a difference in reducing infection and the spread of water-borne and sanitation-related diseases. - BuaNews