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The COVID-19 pandemic has proven the importance of hand-washing to stop disease spreading. However, year after year, a huge amount of resources, time and money are spent on the purchase of sanitation materials and the building of latrines.

In the acute phase of an emergency, diarrhoeal diseases still cause 40% of deaths of which 80% are children. Washing hands with soap and water can reduce the risk of spreading disease by around 45%, so interventions that are successful in promoting and enabling hand-washing could save millions of lives. However, until now there has been no readily available, low cost, approved kit to provide hand-washing in emergencies.

In a project, supported by the Humanitarian Innovation Fund (HIF), Dunster House Ltd. has been working as a consultant and manufacturing partner of Oxfam GB, along with the design partners Royal College of Art, Church Communities UK, and a small group of Design Specialists, with the aim to produce an innovative hand washing station, that would fill the gap in emergency sanitation projects.

After more than three years of development and field trials, the project has finally become a reality, with manufacturing starting in August 2020.


The project

The Hand Washing Kit, has experienced a dramatic evolution from the original design. The original concept was made in 2015 by students from Beech Grove Academy as a result of the students responding to the Oxfam Handwashing Challenge, with a final model looking much different.

This initial A-frame design, made by the students, was two sided, durable, stable, low-cost and designed to be flat-packed with stackable parts, as well as easily installed in within minutes. It included mirrors and spaces for handwashing promotion messages.


It was in 2017, when Oxfam teamed up with Dunster House and SPARK Product Creation, to develop the idea. This first prototype shows already big design changes; the A-frame was changed to a tripod structure with wooden legs, the tank upgraded to 30 litre-capacity with a lid and space to fit the mirrors, as well as handwash-promotion messages and new tap seals. The basin was updated and its size increased, adding integrated drainage. The new Hand Washing Kit prototype was even easier to assemble and made with a colourful design for a more attractive look.

It was then, in summer 2017, when the first pre-production model for the Hand Washing Station was taken to Nduta refugee camp in Tanzania for initial trials, where it was very well received by the users.

Based on the feedback from this first trial, Dunster House, along with Oxfam and SPARK Product Creation, implemented the first changes on the prototype, adding a new and more durable lid, that accommodated new theft-resistant mirrors. It also incorporated new plug drainage and the first instruction manual, becoming also easier to assemble.


This second improved model was taken again for trial in March 2018 to Kyaka camp, in Uganda, where it was welcomed by the local families that marked the improvement from the Tippy Tap system.

The design of this unit progressed massively through the years, with changes based on all the field trial’s feedback and the aims of achieving a design that allows an efficient and cost-effective shipping with no space wastage, while maintaining an attractive look.


A third prototype, that showcases the most evident design change, was conceptualised focusing with “simplicity” as a must. It gathered all the desired features as well as the best performance and most efficient design for shipping.

This last prototype, was designed with more durable materials and can be mostly preassembled during the manufacturing process, arriving on site with fitted mirrors, lid and taps. This allowed an intuitive 3-step build-up that does not require of manuals.

The design reduced the tank size to the usual 24-litre bucket capacity, so no leftover water would remain in the container, and also included an internal container for liquid soap, apart from the designated areas for the solid soap.  The tank now will be conceptualised to slot and lock into the basin, with no need of fixings.

This final prototype, that only suffered minor changes, was also designed to allow the most efficient shipping, optimising the tank design to fit six units flat-packed to a standard 1200x800 pallet size.


The design

After three field trials and years of work the final Hand Washing Kit is finally ready for manufacturing. The keys for its successful design are simple; Easy to use, Durable and Desirable, and all together will make this unit an intuitive handwash station to be easily accessed by young and elder and, most importantly, will help to control disease spreading and save lives.

It is easily transportable, robust and quick to assemble following 3 easy steps, whilst also being attractive and easy to maintain. Its metal legs can be buried in the ground to a 30cm depth and cemented to prevent theft and its large 24-litre water tank is easy to refill, while its user-friendly, one-touch push-up tap keeps disease spreading contact points to a minimum and conserve water.  The drainage pipe can be buried into a hole filled with rocks, so the wasted water can be absorbed, improving the washing experience and ensuring waste water soaks away.

The usage of colourful components has been extended to the whole unit and the mirrors, which proved their success as nudges to encourage a more frequent use across all the ages are now embedded to reduce theft. The areas above the soap and water taps also display hygiene promotion messages to encourage use.

The kit can be stacked compactly on a standard 1200x800 pallet with minimal space wastage for an economical shipping. The pallets will contain boxes of 6 units flat-packed.


The expected results

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), diarrhoea and respiratory infections are still the main cause of death of young children in the developing world, and claim approximately 3.5 million young lives each year. Washing hands with soap has been linked to 16-23% reduction of acute respiratory infection, 50% reduction in pneumonia, substantial reduction in neonatal infections and up to 48% reduction in risk of endemic diarrhoea, according to WaterAid.

This kit, with its simple, robust and intuitive design, will facilitate access to handwashing for adults and children across all the ages living in displacement camps and situations of humanitarian crisis. Easy-to-access, this Hand Wash Station is set to satisfy one of the most basic needs and provide dignity with a basic, yet complete, attractive and easy-to maintain sanitation facility, that has been designed to last for long.

It will also provide a solution easy to deliver and that can be built in within minutes, which is key when facing situations of disaster and humanitarian crisis.

Currently, the COVID-19 pandemic has just worsened the situation and, more than ever, hand washing facilities are needed all around the globe. A kit like this, that helps to promote and enable handwashing can make a real difference for millions of people across all the ages living in situations of humanitarian crisis. This station, which is attractive, easy to use, transport and install, will increase handwashing rates and therefore lower incidence of related diseases.


Dunster House Ltd. is a family run company selling timber garden products as its core business. Over the years we have expanded and grown becoming the largest log cabin company in the UK and opening our Humanitarian Department at our headquarters. With 7 branches spread out across the UK and 13 sister factories in Europe, we have a large range of products. Discover them on the links below!