Namibia: 'Tippy Taps' Popularity Wanes

Community members in Windhoek's Goreangab settlements - one of the areas worse affected by hepatitis E - have not been using the 'tippy taps' introduced by the health ministry to encourage hand washing.

Tippy taps were introduced at the settlement last year as part of the 'Operation Sanitiser' campaign by the health ministry and the US embassy to increase handwashing awareness, and to contain the spread of hepatitis E.

The taps are a simple invention in which a five-litre plastic container is filled with soapy water and tied to poles with strings, using a straight stick placed on the ground to act as a pulley when washing hands.

They are an invention used to maintain frequent handwashing in areas where access to water and proper sanitation and hygiene is limited.

Although during the campaign the ministry only set up three tippy taps for demonstration purposes, the community was encouraged to make use of them and to also set up their own.

During a visit to the Goreangab informal settlement last week, The Namibian asked community members whether they were aware of tippy taps. Only four out of 20 people said they knew what tippy taps were. In addition, the three that were there appeared to have been vandalised.

A resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told The Namibian that he knew about the tippy taps, but simply does not make use of them.

Community health worker Foibe Kakwiyu, who has been working as a health assistant at the ministry of health in the Goreangab informal settlement for almost two years, said many people have not embraced tippy taps.

"People know about the tippy taps, I just don't know why they choose to be ignorant. The biggest challenge we face is that community members destroy them days after they are set up," she added.

Kakwiyu claimed that she observed a significant decrease in hepatitis E cases when tippy taps were first introduced. However, the numbers have gone back up.

She thus urged community members to make use of the tippy taps, and to recognise the direct effect it can have on their health. Lawanifwa Haiduwa, a teacher at the Okonghenda Yaye Kindergarten at Havana, said they have been using tippy taps since they were introduced last year.

She has also been spreading awareness to the kindergarteners' parents as to what tippy taps are, and how to make use of them.

"Parents who see the tippy tap are inspired, and say they will make their own for their homes," she noted.

Likius Hedula, a community member in Goreangab, said he has been using tippy taps, and finds them very appropriate.

He added that since their household does not have running water, tippy taps have become their primary source to use when washing their hands.

"It [tippy tap] works well. There are four adults and three children who live here, and I can say that the general health of our household has improved. We don't really get sick anymore," he beamed.

Hedula said although community members may know about about the tippy taps, they do not want to put in the effort of making their own.

"I don't know many people who have them. Most people will use ours when they are here but they don't make it for themselves," he added.

The health ministry's executive director, Ben Nangombe, said there are community health workers to guide and assist in erecting the devices, but it is up to the households to keep and maintain the tippy taps.

"The household has to get materials ready for the tippy tap, after which community health workers will guide and assist in erecting the structure," he urged.

The first cases of hepatitis E were reported towards the end of 2017 at Goreangab and Havana.

The health ministry recently stated that since the outbreak was declared, 6 032 hepatitis E cases have been reported. The disease continues to spread to other parts of the country. The latest affected regions include Otjozondjupa, which recently reported 19 new cases, while the two Kavango regions reported 64.

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