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Innovation for improved hand hygiene: Field testing the Autarky handwashing station in collaboration with informal settlement residents in Durban, South Africa

: Sutherland, Catherine; Reynaert, Eva; Sindall, Rebecca C.; Riechmann, Michel C.; Magwaza, Fanelesibonge; Lienert, Juri; Buthelezi, Sibongile; Khumalo, Duduzile; Dhlamini, Sifiso; Morgenroth, Eberhard; Udert, Kai M.

Volltext ()

Science of the Total Environment 796 (2021), Art. 149024, 13 S.
ISSN: 0048-9697
ISSN: 1879-1026
Zeitschriftenaufsatz, Elektronische Publikation
Fraunhofer EMI ()
community participation; hand hygiene; WASH; technology field test; water recycling; transdisciplinary research

Safe and accessible water services for hand hygiene are critical to human health and well-being. However, access to handwashing facilities is limited in cities in the Global South, where rapid urbanisation, service backlogs, lack of infrastructure and capacity, and water scarcity impact on the ability of local governments to provide them. Community participation and the co-production of knowledge in the development of innovative technologies, which are aligned with Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) principles, can lead to more sustainable and socially-acceptable hand hygiene systems. This paper presents the outcomes of the testing of the Autarky handwashing station, a technology that provides onsite treatment and recycling of handwashing water, in an informal settlement in Durban, South Africa. The transdisciplinary research approach adopted enabled the participation of multiple stakeholders with different knowledge systems in the framing, testing and evaluation of the system. The process of co-producing knowledge, as well as the outcomes of the testing, namely high levels of functionality and social acceptability of the technology, supported the WASH principles. The evaluation revealed that the Autarky handwashing station is a niche intervention that improved access to safe and appealing handwashing facilities in an informal settlement. Its novel design, socially desirable features, reliability and ability to save water increased its acceptance in the community. The testing of the system in a real-world context revealed the value of including communities in knowledge production processes for technology innovation. Further work is required to ensure that real-time monitoring of system function is feasible before such systems can be implemented at larger scale.