Turkey and Syria earthquake: evidence-based innovations and guidance for acute crisis response.

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Handwashing in emergencies saves lives by preventing the spread of WASH-related diseases: handwashing with soap has a greater impact on reducing deaths from diarrhoeal disease than any other single intervention.  Yet there is no standardised kit for handwashing in humanitarian contexts, when reduced resources make it more difficult for people to manage their hygiene.

Too often in emergency settings, the lack of quickly assembled, readily available, self-contained kits for communal handwashing facilities means these stations are not ready to install alongside latrines – a key failure to supply a safe, healthy sanitation and hygiene response for people in crisis. Existing stations require technical knowledge and several hours to install, and procuring local components can take up to a year. Many of these stations are not easily used or dignified – they are often messy, clumsy, and without drainage.


Designed and developed by Beech Grove Academy students in partnership with Oxfam, the first prototype of the OHS, then called the Promotion and Practice Handwashing Kit, had an ‘A-frame’ superstructure capable of holding different locally-available water containers combined with soap, handwashing reminders, and the ‘HandyWash’ water dispenser. The attractive design was height-adjustable for children and wheelchair users and easy to use and maintain, providing dignified handwashing facilities for people in crisis.

This prototype was used to develop three further OHS iterations in collaboration with The Royal College of Arts, Spark Design and Dunster House manufacturing. The evolution in design can be seen in the blogs at the bottom of this page. Each new prototype was field tested in Nduta Refugee Camp, Tanzania and in Kyaka Refugee Camp in Uganda, and the feedback of users further influenced design adaptions. The final product – the OHS – is the result of six years of innovative design, collaboration, field testing and adaptation to find a product that addresses the major gaps and challenges for handwashing in emergencies.

This kit improves humanitarian practice by allowing for quick and easy install of self-contained handwashing stations alongside latrines in displacement camps, avoiding the generally late provision of poor quality facilities which discourages vital handwashing.


The kit was expected to facilitate better access to handwashing facilities for women, men, and children living in displacement camps – including disabled persons and the elderly. In a recent trial of the OHS at scale, the station – easy to use and install – increased handwashing rates and therefore supported in lowering incidence of disease, providing people with health and dignity and satisfying the basic need of effective, readily available water and sanitation facilities in times of crisis. Easier maintenance and management helped conserve scarce water resources and durability makes the station suitable for long-term sustainable use.
The kit also saved cost and time as humanitarian actors and their logisticians currently spend considerable time sourcing and installing components for other handwashing solutions. The time and cost savings on limited resources ultimately allowed humanitarian actors to reach more


A further Humanitarian Innovation Fund grant allowed Oxfam to test the suitability of the OHS at scale, deploying 2400 kits in three countries: Bangladesh, Ethiopia, and DRC. The stations were installed in latrines, schools, health facilities, public settings, and in host communities. Alongside installation of the OHS, Oxfam used Mum’s Magic Hands, a set of promotional activities that promote handwashing using emotional motivators. A series of structured observations, spot checks and surveys and discussions were held with users and staff to evaluate the uptake of the new design.  The findings show an observed increase in handwashing with soap of 60% across the three countries as compared to a baseline study prior to observation. Installation of the OHS increased access to handwashing facilities during a critical time in the COVID-19 pandemic, including access for children and people with physical disabilities, allowing two people to wash their hands simultaneously whilst allowing for social distancing to be observed. At the end of the testing period, 99% of facilities remained fully functional after 6 months of use.

Since the success of the scale up project, a total of 4,000 handwashing stations have been distributed across 9 countries, reaching over 50,000 people. Oxfam hopes that the success of this pilot at scale will encourage further adoption of the design, and that the stations can be used across humanitarian contexts to promote handwashing and save lives.

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Latest Updates

Oxfam Handwashing Station- Testing at Scale

Mar 2022

Oxfam's final project blog looks at how the OHS has been tested at scale with 2,010 kits.


COVID-19 Response

Oct 2020

Another grant has been awarded by the HIF to examine the efficacy of the Handwashing Stand in contexts of COVID-19.


A Handwashing Kit for Emergency Settings – from Concept to Realisation

15 Mar 2019

As their handwashing project comes to an end, Oxfam share the journey they have travelled in creating and testing a prototype for a handwashing station.


Handwashing station almost ready for action

10 Dec 2018

I arrived at AidEx in Brussels to see the brand new, and final, prototype of the handwashing kit, fresh from the factory. It had been a year since I field tested the first prototype at a refugee camp in Tanzania. Another two trips followed, including Uganda, with iterated designs. (Watch this video to see the handwashing kit at AidEx)


Handwashing kit faces its toughest and final test

09 Sept 2018

It is very dry here at the moment and very dusty. There are little or no hand washing facilities and collecting clean water can be up to a 30-minute walk under the burning sun with little shade. It’s easy to see why most of the Congolese refugees in this camp don’t or can’t wash their hands.


New handwashing station offers a clean slate for refugee sanitation

1 Aug 2018

Article in The Telegraph: It’s something that most of us take for granted but for people living in refugee camps access to handwashing facilities can be a life saver. Aid agency Oxfam is trialling the use of a new handwashing stand to be used in humanitarian emergencies where sanitation is often poor and diseases such as cholera and acute diarrhoea can spread like wildfire.


Testing new handwashing kit at scale in Tanzania refugee camp

15 May 2018

I arrived in the Nduta refugee camp in March 2018 only to find that it was the peak of the rainy season. How quickly a river can form around your feet! But the good news was that this would prove to be an excellent testing ground for the new prototype as previous tests had raised questions about whether the stands would be stable in the rain and the wind.


Field testing new handwashing kit prototype in Tanzania

20 Sept 2017

Following the evolution of the Handy Wash Tap (an innovative water saving/hygienic tap – see video), a new prototype for a freestanding handwashing station has been produced and field-tested in collaboration with Oxfam, SPARK Product Creation and Dunster House Ltd – and with funding from the HIF.


Optimising the a-frame handwashing promotion and practice kit

13 Jun 2017

Developing the promotion and practice hand-washing kit (PPHWK) kicked off with an inception meeting in Oxfam house, Oxford on 13 Jan 2017. It brought together all stakeholders and experts in design, behaviour-change hand-washing and logistics and WASH to re-establish project objectives, ways of working and the work plan.


Read the Humanitarian WASH Innovation Catalogue

Learn more about this WASH project, and many others, in our Humanitarian WASH Innovation Catalogue.

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