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Tippy Taps Preventing Disease for Decades

During this unprecedented time, it is easy to get caught up in what we cannot do, rather than what we can do.

"Stay inside,” “Keep your distance,” and “Wash your hands” are phrases we’ve heard on repeat for over a month without a definitive end. Officials ask us to faithfully participate in 'common-sense' practices, such as washing our hands. Hand washing is crucial in preventing the spread of COVID-19. But what about those who do not have access to soap and running water?

Hand washing— A Privilege

In March 2020, the United Nations estimated 2.2 billion people do not have access to safe drinking water, and approximately 4.2 billion people do not have access to safely managed sanitation facilities. For many, washing your hands is not as straightforward as it seems. But simple innovations, such as tippy taps, have proven to be highly efficient in preventing the spread of infectious diseases.

Transformation with Tippy Taps

Tippy taps, a fun alliteration, among other things, is a simple, yet powerful tool that provides a way to wash your hands even if you do not have a tap. You make a tippy tap from a rope, a recycled container, and four wooden poles. It works by using your foot to tip the jug of water, so you do not have to touch a handle with dirty hands. There are various designs of the same concept using whatever materials you can find. The very first tippy tap was built in Zimbabwe in the 1980s was made with a gourd instead of a plastic container.

Handwashing with soap is the single most effective and inexpensive way to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. According to UNICEF, handwashing with soap at the five critical times during the day has the ability to save more lives than any single vaccine or medical intervention. Tippy taps were an essential preventative measure used during the Ebola outbreak in 2014-2016 in West Africa. Currently, individuals are using tippy taps across Africa as a countermeasure for COVID-19.

Hopeful, Not Helpless

It may feel like nothing is in our control right now. We may seem isolated or disempowered. But there is a lot we can do to slow the spread of COVID-19 that goes beyond social distancing. You can make an impact by dedicating a few minutes to learning more about the global water crisis and how you can help.

NGOs all around the world are scrambling for resources to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in developing countries. Finding an organization that could use your support or investing in a Water Benefit Certificate is a way you can impact millions from your couch. Tippy taps are not only for vulnerable populations in other countries; they can be used to support the health of the homeless in your community. The CDC offers information on how to build a tippy tap for your community and beyond.

This article was written by Katy Thompson for the Page Family Foundation.

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