A WaterSHED moment: Bringing a market-based approach to improved handwashing in Vietnam

Speeches Shim

$100,000 | Stage 1: Proof of Concept | Water, Sanitation, & Hygiene | Vietnam
$650,000 | Stage 2: Testing at Scale | Water, Sanitation, & Hygiene | Vietnam

The problem: Consistent handwashing for better health

In Vietnam alone, the health impact of poor sanitation costs an estimated $262 million each year. Handwashing is one of the most cost-effective tools for alleviating this tremendous disease burden, borne especially by children under five.

After many years of hygiene promotion in Vietnam, WaterSHED determined that the fundamental obstacle to consistent handwashing is not a lack of knowledge or awareness, but the need for a convenient, dedicated place for handwashing with soap that can also serve as a physical reminder to reinforce behavior.

The solution: Product innovation to reinforce behavior change

WaterSHED's Happy Tap at Work

The concept of the HappyTap device, originally conceived through the World Bank Water & Sanitation Programme’s Global Handwashing Initiative, is to bring together soap and water in an affordable, purpose-built, and attractive handwashing station that makes hygienic behavior convenient and easy. Developed through a rigorous design and iterative testing phase through 2010, the HappyTap product reflects the right mix of aesthetic appeal, functionality, durability and affordability.

This combination helps to overcome key behavioral barriers to consistent handwashing. The HappyTap is an aspirational product that gives households a way to incorporate handwashing with soap into daily routines, and thus bridges the gap between knowing and doing.

This DIV Stage 2 award $650,000 builds on earlier USAID investments. In 2012 under a DIV Stage 1 pilot, WaterSHED recruited local manufacturing and distribution partners and validated the marketability of the device through test-marketing across Tien Giang and Vinh Long provinces in southern Vietnam. In the current 2-year project, WaterSHED will develop a commercial-grade marketing campaign for broad dissemination; train sales agents and promoters within the direct promotions channel; facilitate the recruitment of domestic and international distributor partners, and rigorously evaluate the impact of the project.  

The potential: Cost-effectiveness, impacts, and implications

WaterSHED’s experience shows that commercial viability is central to the long-term sustainability of project impact. The expected outcome of WaterSHED’s efforts to create consumer demand and facilitate local supply is a dynamic commercial market for handwashing devices in Vietnam. WaterSHED’s goal is to enable businesses to earn an attractive income, empower consumers with products that support healthy habits, and cement large-scale behavior change with consistent, practiced behavior. Key partners toward these efforts include the Vietnam Ministry of Health and the Women’s Union, whose objectives are aligned for maximum hygienic practice.

“We hope to achieve consumer uptake of at least 70,000 units used by more than 280,000 people, in the near term, and we will measure how the device makes it more exciting and convenient to change awareness into habit,” said Ms. Ai Huynh, WaterSHED Project Coordinator. “In the medium term, our ambition is that private sector actors are marketing HappyTap by themselves while NGOs and government can lessen their focal support,” she added.

Learn more:

  • Watch WaterSHED's Happy Tap in action.
  • Read the press release of DIV's Stage 2 award
  • Follow WaterSHED on Twitter for the latest news

Last updated: July 12, 2021

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