The U.S. Agency for International Development’s Development Innovation Ventures (DIV) awarded WaterSHED, an NGO based in Cambodia, a Stage 1 grant to seed the commercial introduction of an innovative hand-washing solution in Vietnam. The commercial launch and scale-up of WaterSHED’s handwashing product will be a pioneering step towards a solution to the global, public health challenge of consistent hand-washing.
“USAID is proud to provide WaterSHED with the early stage support it needs to launch its innovative, life-saving device on the market, and help tackle the 900,000 cases of malnutrition and 9,000 deaths in Vietnam each year that can be associated with improper hand-washing practices,” said Dr. Maura O’Neill, Chief Innovation Officer and Senior Counselor to the Administrator at the U.S. Agency for International Development.
In Vietnam, the economic costs of poor hygiene are estimated at US$262 million per year. In rural Vietnam, merely 6.1 percent of people wash hands with soap before eating and comparably few people wash hands with soap at critical times such as after toilet use and before food preparation. Effective hand-washing in Vietnam would significantly reduce the transmission of communicable diseases, the ever-growing threat from pandemic flus and the economic, and the health burdens imposed by diarrheal disease and respiratory infections – two of the top three causes of child mortality in the Lower Mekong Region.
Until now, public interventions have achieved limited success in their attempts to address the global hand-washing crisis. Such projects typically involve education, hygiene awareness-raising, and do-it-yourself products such as plastic jugs and buckets. In contrast to these efforts, recent research by the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) in Vietnam, and WaterSHED’s formative research in Cambodia, identified that a fundamental obstacle to hand-washing is not a lack of awareness, but a lack of purpose-built, affordable, and aspirational hand-washing hardware.
In 2010, with USAID support, WaterSHED teamed with WSP to create such a product – an innovative fixed-place hand-washing device dubbed the “HappyTap”. Developed using a human-centered design (HCD) process, the breakthrough product blends durability and low cost with the unique preferences for functionality and aesthetics that base-of-the-pyramid consumers demand. “The HappyTap is truly unique and innovative – if it can be introduced commercially, and hence sustainably, in Vietnam with the support of USAID/DIV, we think it will have exciting global scalability”, said Geoff Revell, WaterSHED-Asia Program Manager.
With the new grant from USAID/DIV’s WASH for Life program – a collaboration between DIV and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – WaterSHED will jumpstart business development and the commercial introduction of the hand-washing device in Vietnam, laying the groundwork for an exciting new product category that can be quickly scaled up region wide. Employing its market-based approach to water and sanitation problems, WaterSHED will bring together the resources and energy of entrepreneurs, government agencies, and multinational corporations in order to make significant inroads towards solving this pressing public health problem.
WaterSHED, which stands for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Enterprise Development, is a USAID-supported NGO, that brings effective, affordable water and sanitation products to market in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. Using proven, market-based principles, WaterSHED leverages the power of private enterprise to bring water, health and prosperity to the people of Southeast Asia.
About Development Innovation Ventures
USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures (DIV) aims to find and support breakthrough solutions to the world’s most important development challenges – interventions with the power to change millions of lives at a fraction of the usual cost. The DIV grant program uses staged financing to invest in game-changing ideas, rigorously test them using cutting-edge analytical methods, and scale solutions that prove they work. WASH for Life is collaboration between DIV and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to identify, test, and transition to scale promising approaches to achieving cost-effective, sustained, scalable water, sanitation, and health (WASH) services in developing countries. For more information visit: www.usaid.gov/div.