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How can organisations work with communities to ensure handwashing facilities are maintained and sustainable?
How can organisations work with communities to ensure handwashing facilities are maintained and sustainable?
Alexandra Czerniewska avatar
Written by Alexandra Czerniewska
Updated over a week ago

Whatever the design of your handwashing facility, it will need maintenance and repairs. The quicker these are done, the easier it will be for people to maintain handwashing habits. When you design or select a handwashing facility, consider how easy it is to repair or replace parts and how often you will need to do it. It will probably be a trade-off, with the most durable designs needing less frequent repairs, but more specialised people to do them. Irrespective of what type of handwashing facility is being promoted, take time to set up an operation and maintenance plan with owners or users to:

  • Replenish soap and water regularly (including paying for these items as necessary)

  • Ensure the facility is kept safe from theft or damage by weather, animals etc

  • Identify where parts can be sourced or fixed

  • Ensure that if the facility becomes damaged people report this and can organise parts and repairs.

  • Ensure that some funding is locally available to cover the cost of repairs.

  • Name the people who are accountable for each point above.

The following should be considered when setting up plans for operation and maintenance of facilities:

  • Are there existing mechanisms within your setting which are responsible for WASH related infrastructure (e.g WASH committees) and who may be able to extend their role to care for these facilities?

  • Are there local/institutional funding mechanisms that could contribute costs to cover consumables and repairs? The cost of repairs is likely to be minimal if shared between many.

  • Could a roster be established to clean the facility, replenish soap and water, and report any faults? Sharing responsibilities may make the process more feasible. This has been shown to work for the cleaning of sanitation facilities.

  • Is there a logical person or organisation who can care for the facility (e.g. if the facility is outside a business it makes sense for that business to maintain the facility, if it is at a school or health centre try to advocate for costs to be included in budgets)?

  • How could you recognise those who contribute time or money to maintaining handwashing facilities? Providing social status and rewards and making people feel like they are contributing to a common good could help to motivate involvement.

When setting up plans, it’s important to be realistic about maintenance responsibilities, specifically be frank about time and costs. Make sure the plan is fair and doesn’t place too much responsibility on any one person. Monitor and support those that are involved in maintenance over several months and work with them to troubleshoot challenges. Although local women's groups may seem an obvious entry point, it’s advisable to include all members of the community in the design, construction and maintenance of handwashing facilities, including boys and men and people with disabilities.

Want to learn more about designing effective and sustainable handwashing facilities:

Reviewed by: Jamie Myers, Janita Bartell, Astrid Hasund Thorseth, Sheillah Simiyu

Last update: 02.03.2021

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