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On March 31, the Tippy Tap – a simple hand-washing tool detailed below – earned the Lespwa Timoun (“Hope for Children”) clinic international media attention after a publication in the Loop and subsequent distribution through its reach in the Caribbean.

Although the Tippy Tap is a simple technology for cleanliness, the media attention is well-deserved. Lespwa Timoun has begun a ripple effect for viral prevention throughout surrounding communities, including a close-by orphanage and various mountain villages that have been able to emulate the device after observing the example at the clinic.

“We want to give people something they can implement cheaply and immediately,” said Dr. Valdema. “For this reason, there are on-site instructors and written instructions posted on the walls of the institution for everyone to see.”

Why now?

Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, is ill-equipped to deal with the novel coronavirus. With the 7.0 magnitude earthquake of 2010 still in recent memory, there is not appropriate healthcare infrastructure to combat the scale of transmission that this pandemic could bring to Haiti.

The country’s population, roughly 11.3 million individuals, has access to only 64 ventilators and between 30 and 123 intensive care unit beds for the whole country. With this in mind, preventative action, rather than reaction, is of utmost importance. When the first two confirmed cases of COVID-19 were announced on March 19, Haiti’s government acted quickly to implement a quarantine for its citizens by closing the airport, ports and all schools.

Since these precautionary measures were enacted, 16 additional cases have been confirmed throughout Haiti. This number, however, could be grossly understated. In an interview with Hannah Jones, Light from Light’s Executive Director, she explained that it is difficult to monitor the growth of the case numbers, given that testing is rudimentary and requires access to expensive materials that Haiti lacks.

Furthermore, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, has advised 6 feet or more of distance between any two people at all times. This physical distancing is difficult in Haiti, where high-density living situations are common. Some degree of human-to-human contact is inevitable, particularly for those who are lowest income (for example cooks regularly need to leave the home for the market, and those who do not have their own vehicle need to use public transportation, which is often overcrowded.)

Immediately following Haiti’s first confirmed case, the Lespwa Timoun clinic took action to model the importance of hand-washing using basic soap and water through the “Tippy Tap.”

So…what exactly is a “Tippy Tap”?

The first Tippy Tap was built with a gourd by a doctor in Zimbabwe in the 1980s. Since then, its use has proliferated throughout developing countries in Africa. The Lespwa Timoun clinic decided to adopt this practical sanitation devise in light of the recent acceleration of confirmed cases of COVID-19 around the globe.

As you can see below, the Tippy Tap is a contact-free way to sanitize hands, which is an effective tool in rural areas that lack access to running water. With a few tools that are likely found near one’s home, a Tippy Tap can be made in an hour or two of concentrated work and benefit a whole community

Why is a Tippy Tap a Good Idea?

Tippy Taps have the capability to reduce the spread of communicable disease, since a suspended bar of anti-bacterial soap is the only thing that is touched by each person. The stream of water is triggered by pressure on a manual foot lever connected by string to the water jug at the top.

Watch it in action at Lespwa Timoun, modeled by a general practitioner physician, Doctor Donald Valdema, at the Lespwa Timoun Clinic.

Light from Light is proud to sponsor projects like these for communities in and around Haiti through this challenging, unprecedented time.

For more information on how Light from Light is working in Haiti, please visit www.lightfromlight.me, follow @lightfromlight.me on Instagram or email info@lightfromlight.me.

Pictured below: A group of mothers of the clinic’s most malnourished children gather to learn the importance of staying clean, and how they can implement a Tippy Tap in their own communities. 

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