Tapping into better hygiene in Fiji's schools and villages

Ovini Nawalu using a tippy tap he made at Namuniwaqa Village School

The tippy tap takeover

A simple do-it-yourself tap is improving hygiene in Fiji’s schools and villages.

Water for Women partner in Fiji, Habitat for Humanity, has been teaching people how to make tippy taps – a cheaply and easily constructed, foot-activated handwashing device that can be set up anywhere.

Motivating communities to practice effective handwashing can be challenging. But the Habitat team say people are taking to the simple device, which uses much less water than a running tap, because it is easy to make and convenient.

“I found that it was a very simple design that I could easily build, and at home my kids love to use it and it encourages them to wash their hands frequently, especially after playing outside,” said Osea Suka, a project partner in Navitilevu Village.

Navitilevu is one of 18 communities Habitat for Humanity is working with as part of the Water for Women project, Strengthening community resilience and inclusion through improved WASH services.

Habitat for Humanity facilitates three-day community engagements where participants learn about the benefits of tippy taps and handwashing. Eleven schools in Ba and Ra provinces are also engaged through the project.

Ovini Nawalu, a teacher and WASH Officer at nearby Namuniwaqa Village School, where he has taught for eight years, installed three tippy taps after attending a session involving 21 other teachers and managers from six schools in Ra province.

Ovini said: “We’ve been facing a lot of water shortage, as the school is the last place to receive water from the village water catchment. That was the motivation for me to come and instill in the students the importance of washing their hands and at the same time conserving water.”

Water scarcity is an ongoing issue for many rural schools in Fiji, including Namuniwaqa, which shares its only water source with the whole village. Most villages have running piped water from a local catchment, but taps might be shared among households and, sometimes, some distance away. Communal areas, such as village halls, may also lack running water taps. Tippy taps are a solution in these situations. But Ovini says instilling in pupils the need for water conservation is also a challenge.

“In the village when they don’t have normal water supply, they just go to the river to swim, to wash, so when they come to school, they don’t care about controlling water, even through teaching and making posters around the wash area.” So, the tippy taps serve a dual purpose, reminding pupils of the need to practice handwashing and helping to conserve water.

Osea Suka using a tippy tap he madeOsea Suka, a project partner in Navitilevu Village, made two tippy taps after taking part alongside other villagers in a three-day community session with Habitat for Humanity.

“I found that it was a very simple design that I could easily build, and at home my kids love to use it and it encourages them to wash their hands frequently, especially after playing outside,” he said.

Rasilivia Navo, a Navitilevu Village community health worker, said: “It’s easy for people to use and even for us women, we’ve asked our youths to install tippy taps for our homes. For me, our bathroom and sanitation facilities (are) located at quite a distance, so I find that the tippy tap helps and encourages frequent handwashing.”

Water for Women partners with Habitat for Humanity in strengthening community resilience and inclusion through improved WASH services in Fiji. Over 4.5 years, this project will address the WASH needs of an estimated 5,253 people across Ba and Ra provinces. 

Through Water for Women, Australia is investing AUD118.9m to deliver 33 WASH projects and research initiatives that aim to support 2.9 million people in 15 countries across South Asia, South East Asia and the Pacific. Water for Women is the Australian government's flagship WASH program and is being delivered as part of Australia's aid program over five years, from 2018 to 2022.


Photos: Habitat for Humaity Fiji


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