Access to handwashing facilities in humanitarian emergencies are limited or non-existent. As a result people affected by emergencies will not wash their hands or at least not often enough. This has the effect that diseases related to hand hygiene increases dramatically.
The present solution involves the distribution of soap (and water). This solution does not solve the problem as it requires an almost impossible logistic operation. As water, is largely a scarce resource it will be used primarily for other purposes than handwashing.
Supertowel is easy to distribute as the product is light weight, low volume and durable. With Supertowel, you may wash your hands anywhere, any time and with minimal water and no soap consumption.
In 2019, Real Relief was awarded a second grant from the HIF’s diffusion call to support the scaling of this intervention. As compared to the original product, this most recent version of Supertowel is significantly different. The Supertowel substrate is now forming an active part of the way the product works.
This diffusion project will make it possible for humanitarian organisations to chose Supertowel as alternative to soap, because the price will be reduced and the consistency of the antimicrobial treatment will be improved.
With a first phase of funding from Elrha’s Humanitarian Innovation Fund (HIF), Real Relief established proof that Supertowel can in fact provide users with clean hands without using soap and with a very limited water usages (50 – 200 ml per handwash) in the laboratory. In the field, they examined user acceptance and establish the required behavior change communication that is needed in support of the product.
With the second grant from HIF’s diffusion call, Real Relief will aim to provide a cheaper, better and more accessible Supertowel. The goal is a Supertowel that:
The goal of this project is to determine the efficacy of handwashing options useful in low-resource settings, including the reusable Supertowel, against enveloped viruses like SARS-CoV-2 and to provide evidence to support their use in humanitarian response during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2020, the HIF awarded another grant to consider how the Supertowel could be used in the COVID-19 response. Existing handwashing may be difficult to access in humanitarian settings, and their efficacy against viral pathogens is poorly understood. For COVID-19 prevention, WHO recommends handwashing with soap and water for 20 seconds, and the use of an alcohol-based hand sanitizer (ABHS) as a second option. Handwashing with soap is inexpensive and widely available but is not portable and may require the use of shared stations. ABHS is a waterless option that is more portable and personal but is also more expensive and difficult to procure. Both options require use of consumable resources. A new handwashing option is the Supertowel™, a reusable towel with antimicrobial properties that was designed as an alternative handwashing product by Real Relief. To use, the towel is dipped in water and then rubbed on hands. Thus, if efficacious for handwashing, the Supertowel could provide users with a handwashing option that is portable, personal, and reusable.
The project will result in information about the efficacy of realistic handwashing practices including the Supertowel and standard recommended practices for removal and inactivation of viruses similar to SARS-CoV-2. These results of laboratory testing of a range of conditions that could effect the efficacy of these methods will provide a first step to determine whether the Supertowel is a viable option for further evaluation and use in the field as part of COVID-19 response activities.
Real Relief share how they have achieved their aim to scale up the production of the Supertowel, setting up a supply chain that is able to manufacture Supertowel at the right price, the right quality and in sufficient quantity.View
Handwashing Day is all about promoting handwashing with soap - and Supertowel has written a blog post about how their product can ensure clean hands for all.View
Sian White and Torben Holm Larsen write about the Supertowel field study in Ethiopia, published on Evidence Aid.View
For three weeks Real Relief have performed extended observations in 13 households.View
Sian White, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, writes about the use of Supertowel during food preparation.View
Real Relief complete their first laboratory test.View
Another grant has been awarded to examine the use of the SuperTowel against COVID-19.
Read Stanford's final blog summarising their research outcomesView
Learn more about this WASH project, and many others, in our Humanitarian WASH Innovation Catalogue.
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