Thousands of youth take up the #TippyTapChallenge

A handwashing solution making a targeted splash in South Africa

Daniel Hartford
school-children-building-a-tippy-tap
UNICEF South Africa/2020/de Vega
14 October 2020

On a clear Eastern Cape day, the final year students of Limekhaya Secondary School are washing their hands in the thin stream of water that pours from a newly installed ‘tippy tap’ – a cheap and easy-to-build DIY handwashing solution.

“Most of the time, here in our school, [the] water runs out and we don’t have water to wash our hands” says 20 year-old Thobeka, one of the students who built the tippy tap. “Because we don’t have money to buy sanitisers, having a tippy tap is good because you [can] wash your hands."

During the COVID-19 pandemic, access to proper handwashing facilities has been a major challenge in curbing the spread of infection in areas without a constant and clean water supply. “The tippy tap keeps hands clean and saves water by reducing waste, this is especially important in communities where water is limited,” explains Thulang Lecheko, the World Vision team leader for Port Elizabeth who has been guiding students in the construction of their own tippy taps as UNICEF South Africa’s implementation partner.

“The tippy tap keeps hands clean and saves water by reducing waste, this is especially important in communities where water is limited.”

Thulang Lecheko, World Vision team leader, Port Elizabeth

The drive, led by young people across the country, forms part of the #TippyTapChallenge – a people-powered campaign initiated by UNICEF South Africa to curb the spread of COVID-19 and to stop a resurgence by building vital handwashing stations in the areas that need it most.

washing-hands-with-tippy-tap
UNICEF South Africa/2020/de Vega

With an estimated 2 million households in South Africa not having access to handwashing facilities, there has been an urgent need for an inexpensive, easy to assemble and effective handwashing solution.

Requiring no more than some string, wooden poles, a nail, a plastic bottle or water container and a bar of soap, a tippy tap can be quickly assembled, providing a simple and hygienic handwashing station.

“What we didn’t expect, is how much fun people would have making them. Since we launched the challenge, we’re seeing young people jump at the chance to help in the fight against COVID-19.”

Juan Smulders, UNICEF South Africa’s water and sanitation specialist

Through UNICEF’s partnership with the Zlto platform, users are able to earn digital rewards for every tippy tap built via the Zlto app. The Zlto rewards can then be redeemed for food and airtime vouchers and are also reflected as a ‘work asset’, which young people can use as experience when applying for jobs. To date, more than 3,000 young people have built a tippy tap via the platform, while more than 20,000 have enrolled in a course on how to build the handwashing stations.

building-tippy-taps
UNICEF South Africa/2020/de Vega

The South African government’s Department of Social Development has also taken up the #TippyTapChallenge to improve handwashing at 1,374 drop-in centres across the country. The facilities provide critical services that support the emotional, physical and social development needs of vulnerable children.

Tippy taps are one part of UNICEF’s broader COVID-19 WASH response and complement the more than 93 large handwashing stations that have been erected in 8 provinces as well as the ongoing distribution of 10,000 WASH kits – containing hygiene essentials – to vulnerable households.

girl-washing-hands
UNICEF South Africa/2020

On Global Handwashing Day, 15 October, the Department of Basic Education and Department of Health are partnering with UNICEF to promote the #TippyTapChallenge in schools. This includes improving existing handwashing facilities and practices in more than 120 schools in 7 provinces. As handwashing stations are built, students, teachers and staff will be engaged in hygiene promotion programmes.

“It only takes a few minutes to do, it doesn’t take a whole day, and it’s not expensive, even a kid can do it, a 10-year-old kid can do it.”

20 year-old Thobeka

Back at Limekhaya Secondary School, Thobeka stresses the importance of handwashing and how easy it is to take part in the #TippyTapChallenge. “It only takes a few minutes to do, it doesn’t take a whole day, and it’s not expensive,” she says before continuing, “even a kid can do it, a 10-year-old kid can do it.”

UNICEF South Africa’s WASH programme is generously supported by DFID, Unilever, USAID, Orbia, PUMA, My School, Discovery, Woolworths and Truworths.