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Building a tap for hand washing, with no plumber in sight

© UNICEFGhana/2013/Logan
Students at Zabzugu Junior High School test out their new tippy tap.


ZABZUGU, Ghana, 19 November 2013 – YOU can build a tap for hand washing for free with just 10 items. Children in Northern Ghana can teach you how. It’s cheap, easy, and potentially revolutionary in areas like Northern Ghana where hand washing is rare, and diarrhea is a major killer of children.

All you need is: Four sticks, one gallon container, a pen case, some rope, a nail, soap and water. Using tree branches, children can hook up an old water container or gallon to a piece of string and a foot pedal so they have running water.

Thousands of children were taught the basics of tap construction during a ‘Tippy Tap Tour’ to celebrate 2013 Global Hand washing Day. UNICEF joined Northern Region’s School Health Programme Co-ordinator Bernadette Kafari to three schools in Zabzugu district, where she showed students the five key steps to building their own taps.

It was sorely needed. None of the schools visited had any handwashing facilities in use. The children knew why they needed to wash their hands: “So we don’t get sick”. But there was nothing they could do about it.

The excitement and the crowds that greeted Ms. Kafari rivaled any celebrity. At Sabare No. 2 Primary School in Zabzugu, students snuck into the Tippy Tap-building demonstration, or watched through the windows and the doorways. In the end, the whole school was there.

It was an important message in the Northern Region, where only 37.5% of households have a place for hand washing with water and soap available. Hand Washing with Soap is a cost effective way of preventing the spread of diseases such as diarrhea.

“Now you don’t have to wait for your teacher to buy you a handwashing facility,” Mrs Kafari told the children. “You can do it yourself with recycled items.”

Zabzugu D/A Junior High School student Wuyangnem Tamyimbe, 17, was inspired by the demonstration.

“I’m going to build three tippy taps,” he declared. “One in the house and two in my school. And I’ll teach my brothers and sisters. I won’t cause disease anymore.”

The Tippy Tap Tour had a big impact on schools which Mrs Kafari visited last year, with students building their own tippy taps out of recycled materials. 

The tap is efficient, as well as being virtually free to construct. It uses only 40 millilitres of water to wash your hands versus 500 millilitres using a mug.



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