Innovation in cleanliness - make your own sanitizer

How can you keep clean when water is in short supply?

Kyi Htun
Kyi Htun
15 April 2020

April 2020, Sittwe, Rakhine State

How can you keep clean when water is in short supply? The COVID-19 pandemic emphasizes the need for cleanliness of hands, surfaces, everything. But in Myanmar at this time of the year, and particularly in the camps for internally displaced people in Rakhine State, the supply of clean water is scarce.

This is when sanitizing gel comes in handy. It is a convenient way to clean your hands when soap and water are not available.While the rush of demand has seen the sanitizer disappear from the market, creative solutions are being born.

UNICEF recently organized free online training by local civil society organization ZiwaWeizza–Health Education based in Yangon which demonstrated step-by-step how to make your own hand sanitizer. Using the ‘Zoom’ social media platform, this useful training on how to make your own much-needed sanitizer engaged participants from international and local organizations. Training for the Department of Social Welfare is underway and other agencies are invited to join or host more sessions.

After briefly explaining COVID-19 and how the use of soap and hand sanitizer can kill the coronavirus, the training gets down to the simple production instructions. The process is easy and safe that adolescents can do this at home themselves.

Hand sanitizer formula

•    spirit, ethanol (at least 70%) 100 ml

      Note: Local alcohol can be used but the ethanol percentage must be at least  70%, up to 96%.   

•    hydrogen peroxide (3%) 5 ml

•    glycerol or aloe gel 1.5 ml

The sanitizing gel takes less than ten minutes to make and contains just three ingredients; ethanol 70%, hydrogen peroxide and glycerol or aloe gel, all of which are relatively inexpensive. Glycerol or aloe gel may be omitted but in that case the formula is a little stronger and it dries out the skin more quickly.

The sanitizing gel can be used as a hand lotion or sprayed onto the body, clothing, phone or other materials. It is for external use only and should not be used near the mouth or eyes.

Building awareness of sanitizer potency and effectiveness, the training urges participants to check the hand gel they are carrying to see if it contains at least 70 percent ethanol.

Facemasks are another tool in the toolkit in the fight against the virus. There is still some debate on the use of facemasks, but it is generally accepted that they reduce the transmission of droplets from the person wearing the mask. The training advises how to make an effective disposable facemask using three layers of cloth, tissue and then cloth again. Fortunately, cloth for making facemasks is available in Sittwe. So, make your own.

Enthusiastic about the training, participants are taking thing forward. “This is really helpful and the items needed to make our own hand sanitizer and masks are cheap and readily available,” said one. “The next thing to do is share these life-saving ideas with our camp staff and replicate this training to others in our communities.”

Sharing creative simple solutions is encouraging in these challenging times.

Appreciation to Dr Myint Maung and ZiwaWeizza Health Education.