Keeping the public safe: SNV and partners deliver 77 tap points for handwashing and drinking

A man turns on a tap at a newly installed metal public handwashing station

District Governor using the accessible handwashing station at the Punakha Dzong entrance  (SNV in Bhutan/Tashi Dorji)


Rapid and collaborative response from our partner SNV has helped Bhutan successfully contain COVID-19.


With support from the Australian Government, through their Water for Women project, Beyond the Finish Line: Sustainable Sanitation and Hygiene for All, SNV was very well placed to move quickly and work with partners on response and preparedness efforts that saw 25 accessible public handwashing stations (and 77 tap points) installed in public spaces across 10 districts.


A COVID-19 response is a WASH response


As the world was waking up to the dangers of the novel coronavirus, the Health Minister of Bhutan issued an Executive Order that saw the Ministry of Health, SNV and UNICEF convene early on to develop a strategic preparedness and response mechanism to prevent, contain and mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.


Public spaces were among those quickly identified as high-risk areas. Not only because these are spaces where people normally converge. But also, because handwashing with soap and drinking water facilities were few. Of the few facilities that were there, most were also inaccessible to children and people with disabilities.


A key part of the response was to design and develop accessible handwashing and drinking facilities which were then rolled out into these key areas. Key accessibility design elements included the delivery of different facility height options so that they are able to be reached by children and wheelchair-accessible ramps next to the facilities. They worked with a local firm, Mawongpa Water Solutions to bring these designs to life.


SNV also worked hard to ensure the systems were in place to maintain these facilities. When they were handed over to local governments, agreements were made for the latter to ensure that soap is made available at all times. To ensure the proper functioning of all stations, 23 technicians (including five women) were trained to operate and maintain the facilities.


This initiative is not only helping protect communities from COVID-19 now, it is also contributing to safe and healthy communities into the future, as one commuter rightly highlighted:


"When we’re away from home, it’s difficult to wash our hands because there were no facilities available (e.g. the bus terminal). The bus might leave us if we search for a place to wash our hands. The newly installed handwashing facility at the bus terminal is very nice and convenient. Now, we don’t even have to buy water from the nearby shop. So we save money too."

Commuter in Thimphu


The benefits of these handwashing stations extend well beyond COVID-19 preparedness. They are also helping market vendors maintain their health and hygiene, "the handwashing facility installed at the vegetable market is a very good initiative," says one vegetable vendor from Kabesa, Thimphu, "It is helpful for us and the customers. Before, it was very challenging to maintain hand hygiene and our hands looked very dirty. Now, we can wash our hands easily and we can stay clean most of the time. Children also find it easy to use without our help."


The fight against COVID-19 is far from over, SNV is covering all bases as part of the response in Bhutan, beyond the delivery of facilities and the training of service professionals, public awareness on proper handwashing techniques were reinforced through the dissemination of hand hygiene posters; all developed in line with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) guidelines. Posted in strategic locations all over the country and within Health Care Facilities, messages of proper hand hygiene and personal care are expected to reach 20,000 people, including children, elderly and people with disabilities.


Over the next 12 months, they will work to improve local government and national health system capacity to ensure sustainability of COVID-19 measures. Targeted activities aim to improve the capacity of 200 government Health Assistants, 160 local leaders (Gups and Tshogpas), 7 District health officers (DHOs) and 80 school health coordinators in 7 districts. This will benefit an estimated 92,000 people (50% of the population) who access HCF services in the 7 target districts. 


Man turns on tap at handwashing station

SNV was very well placed to move quickly and work with partners on response and preparedness efforts that saw 25 accessible public handwashing stations (and 77 tap points) installed in public spaces across 10 districts in Bhutan

With a focus on Partnerships for Recovery, Australia is supporting COVID-19 work across in South Asia to secure our region’s health, wellbeing and stability in these challenging times. Through Water for Women, not only are we delivering safe, equitable and sustainable Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), we are also building, healthy, inclusive and resilient societies. 



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