Water and sanitation entrepreneurs at the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis (part 1)

Creative solutions for challenging times

In the past few months, many of the entrepreneurs in our network have been giving everything to tackle the COVID-19 crisis, using their creativity, adaptability and flexibility to come up with new business models and new ways to help their battered communities. Have a look at our panorama of innovative water, health, hygiene and sanitation solutions to fight the spread of COVID-19. 


Joona – Period Poverty Dignity Kits (Lebanon)

Joona is an online wellness brand , supported by cewas, that specialises in natural and ethical skincare. Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, they have been producing Dignity Kits including hygiene essentials to tackle period poverty among underprivileged families in the North of Lebanon. They now also aim to develop an online toolkit to help franchise the production of reusable, sustainable sanitary items.

How has your community and business been affected by the COVID-19 crisis?

The economic and political crisis in Lebanon along with COVID-19 lockdown left many families vulnerable to substantial loss of income in addition to the influx of product prices. Women and girls in marginalised communities are especially vulnerable to Period Poverty: the inability to access proper menstruation management like getting hygienic menstruation products such as soap, pads and underwear. This is especially present in families where the females would feel ashamed to bring the topic up.

What is your solution?

We have started to produce dignity kits that will be distributed to women living in vulnerable conditions. We aim to provide 4-months-worth of hygienic and menstruation products to 1000 girls and women. We already distributed 1200 kits (made of pads, soaps, sanitiser and chocolate).  In the end, this campaign is, however, only a short-term response to the crisis. We are exploring more advanced and sustainable solutions to build upon our social arm in the company and solve the deeply rooted problem of Period Poverty. We also intend to conduct educational hygiene workshops, teaching the know-how of creating reusable menstruation pads that could be washed and reused with comfort and ease. The best way to combat an expensive commodity is to educate and co-create alternatives with the community itself.

Learn more about Joona


Spring Health – Diversifying into disinfectant production (India)

Spring Health’s mission is to provide safe and affordable drinking water to rural communities in Odisha, India. Over the past ten years, the social business has created an innovative network of 263 water kiosks that offer daily delivery of 10 and 20 litre jerry cans of water to the homes of over 25’000 families that have traditionally been underserved by public and private water service providers. In response to the pandemic, Spring Health, supported by Antenna Foundation, has started producing and distributing disinfectants to help tackle the spread of COVID-19.

How has your community and business been affected by the COVID-19? 

Spring Health is currently operating at 40% strength. Many of the villages in our usual area of operations have been in containment which has severely hampered our company’s day to day operations. We have been experiencing a drop in sales which has, in turn, affected the collection and the pay-out cycle of our staff. Presently the company is operating but due to the drop in revenue, it becomes difficult to sustain the operations for a much longer period of time under the given conditions.

What is your solution?

One of the most important elements of containing the spread of COVID-19 is hygiene and the disinfection of contaminated surfaces. But there is limited access to sanitisers and disinfectants, needless to say, that such products are virtually absent in rural areas of Odisha. In these difficult times, Spring Health decided to use its decentralised production of active chlorine with WATA devices (which are normally used to disinfect water) to make 100 ml bottles of chlorine for hand washing and disinfection purposes and thereby diversify its product portfolio. The externally induced COVID-19 experience shows that diversification is key to increase revenue streams and move towards profitability again. In the future, Spring Health will not only distribute safe drinking water but also hygiene and disinfection products through our water kiosks network.

Learn more about Spring Health


Aqua Tyres – Touchless Wash Kits (Uganda)

Aqua Tyres is a WaSH startup supported by Young Water Solutions which provides affordable water and sanitation solutions to local communities and farmers. In response to the COVID-19 crisis, Aqua Tyres is deploying a Touchless Wash Kit (TW-20) as an innovative solution to limit contact with surfaces while ensuring the WHO recommended hand washing practices. The initiative is a collaboration with Badaye Technologies Limited, an incorporated technological company based in Uganda

How has your community and business been affected by the COVID-19 crisis?

Uganda is currently experiencing another wave of COVID-19 with 2,362 confirmed cases and 22 deaths reported as of August 25. There is still an upsurge in community transmissions especially in the capital city, Kampala. With most of the lockdown measures eased, a sense of normalcy in the country is being experienced. However, the effects of the past months of total lockdown including failed and struggling businesses, employee layoffs, cases of depression and suicide, food insecurity, poverty and a growing sense of apathy are still being felt. The set SOP’s including handwashing with soap are seen as a luxury to the already vulnerable populations.

What is your solution?

Thanks to the financial support of Young Water Solutions and IWCAN, we are currently piloting the TW-20 kit, a green low-cost touchless and pedal-less technology for effective handwashing. It is equipped with customised audio communication for user guidance. During use, the kit detects one’s hands triggering release of a regulated amount of liquid soap, just enough to make lather, and later water for rinsing after 20 seconds. Besides the handwashing, the technology is supported by the TW-20 View, a custom-made data repository, curation and analytics platform that receives and records daily handwashing user data from the TW-20 kits & remote monitoring.

 


Happy Tap –  Focusing on e-commerce (Bangladesh)

After two years of groundwork and prototyping, HappyTap finally launched the first of its kind plastic portable basin designed for low-income settings in February 2020. Shortly after, Bangladesh declared a nation-wide lockdown. HappyTap, which is supported by Aqua for All, immediately shifted its focus on e-commerce and has since successfully reached out to healthcare facilities, schools, cities’ governments and NGOs to help fight the spread of COVID-19. 

How has your community and business been affected by the COVID-19? 

At the beginning of March, HappyTap Bangladesh started its retail distribution in Gazipur district. Bangladesh identified it’s first COVID-19 patient on March 8 and the government declared a nationwide lockdown on March 26. The massive pandemic-related disruptions to livelihoods and the economy have reduced the ability of household customers to pay for Happy Taps and we had to shift our focus to e-commerce immediately. We started to receive online orders but could not deliver products outside of the capital city, Dhaka, as as the courier/delivery partners were only willing to deliver inside the city limits.

What is your solution?

HappyTap has been ramping up the production and distribution capacity in Bangladesh. Thanks to the funding from Aqua for All, we are building out our institutional sales verticals, and will be rolling out programming to reach healthcare facilities and schools with handwashing hardware plus accompanying software to ensure institutional ownership of handwashing stations, plus regular operations and maintenance.

We are also in discussions with the Bangladeshi government, the Mayor of Dhaka and a few other cities interested in installing handwashing stations with soap in strategic public spaces. HT is reaching out to different NGOs and donor organisations, as well, including in urban and peri-urban slums, refugee camps. We launched a digital awareness campaign during this pandemic to communicate the importance of hand washing to fight COVID-19 with different videos, which received over 1 million views each within the first week of posting. We have recently partnered with the leading Bangladeshi MFI, BRAC, on a small user acceptance study as part of a larger engagement with their COVID-19 response programming.