Shaping the future: Our strategy for research and innovation in humanitarian response.

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The importance of proper handwashing to control the spread of disease has never been more critical, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to threaten lives. An estimated 3 billion people lack access to basic handwashing facilities (WHO). In low-income countries, handwashing facilities in institutions such as healthcare centres and schools are poor.

Due to scarcity, in most crisis contexts, water tends to be allocated for drinking and cooking (Elrha / HIF), with sanitation and handwashing being secondary considerations. As the climate crisis escalates, scarcity will place increasing pressure on access to water, particularly in resource-poor countries.


Gravit’eau recycles water, reducing the actual water use to just 5 ml per handwash. Activated by a footpump and using gravity-driven membrane filtration, the system is low-maintenance and requires no external supplies like chemicals or electricity.

Compared to other humanitarian handwashing systems, Gravit’eau is a more sustainable, user-friendly, economic and environmentally friendly solution. Its main advantages are:

  • High water use efficiency
  • No need for regular drainage, water supply connection or refills (only every 2-4 weeks)
  • Water can’t be easily used for purposes other than handwashing
  • Water is free of microbial contamination; with reduced risk of hand recontamination or mixing with soap
  • Can be produced locally and is easily adapted to different scales and available containers
  • The filter does not require any maintenance, complex cleaning or replacement for up to 5-8 years of operation

Gravit’eau is implemented in combination with the RANAS behaviour change model, so as to maximise user acceptance and the impact of intervention in each specific context.


The team’s goal is to produce the following outputs by the end of the funding period:

  • Local production is established in four countries with a capacity of producing 50-100 systems per year in each country
  • Designs addressing needs of different user groups are finalised and evaluated in pilot projects
  • RANAS behaviour change strategy is established and customised for Gravit’eau handwashing systems
  • A knowledge-sharing platform is developed and made functional
  • The startup company Gravit’eau is established and provides support and consulting packages on setting up production and evaluation of the Gravit’eau handwashing systems

Expected outcomes:

  • Gravit’eau handwashing systems are used in over a hundred health care facilities and schools in the selected countries
  • Safe and frequent hygiene behaviour is followed by all user groups
  • The technology is adopted by multiple NGOs beyond Terre des hommes
  • Experiences and learnings are shared over the knowledge-sharing platform
Play video

Latest Updates

Gravit'eau Handwashing Water Recycling Systems in Burkina Faso

11 Mar 2022

Read an interview with the Gravit'eau team on their recent trip to Burkina Faso here


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