‘Tap Twinning’ has raised more than £300,000 in the two weeks since Toilet Twinning launched the scheme as an urgent response to Covid-19.

The generosity of people across the UK is helping to fund a huge handwashing and hygiene programme in more than 45 countries so vulnerable communities learn how coronavirus spreads and how they can protect themselves.

Toilet Twinning CEO Lorraine Kingsley says: ‘At a time when so many in the UK are worried about their finances because of the lockdown, we’ve been deeply humbled by this astonishing outpouring of generosity.

‘People can see how difficult things are in the UK, where we have the NHS and social welfare – and so it isn’t hard for them to imagine how much worse things will be in poorer countries where it will be so much harder to effect social distancing, and support vulnerable people when they are sick.’

The Toilet Twinning initiative, which raises funds for Tearfund’s water and sanitation work globally, launched ‘Tap Twinning’ on 20 March in a bid to raise £450,000 for the first phase of Tearfund’s Covid-19 response.

All 250 Tearfund partners are now engaged in sharing vital public health information by all means possible, including distributing health materials, social media messaging, and loudspeaker announcements in public places. Many are also stepping up their work to improve people’s access to clean water and training communities in hygiene practices such as handwashing through the use of tippy taps*.

Lorraine says: ‘Handwashing is the single most effective way to prevent the spread of infection, which is why it’s always been a central strand of our work. Now, more than ever, it’s vitally important that vulnerable communities get this message and have the basics they need to heed the advice: clean water and soap at the very least. These are people who are least equipped to protect themselves from Covid-19 – people who don’t have ready access to healthcare or social safety nets.’

Other responses being funded through Tap Twinning include:

  • Distributing hygiene products (eg soap) to the most vulnerable in eg: Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Colombia, Lebanon, Liberia, Mozambique, Nigeria and Zimbabwe (including Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar, and Venezuelan migrants in Colombia)
  • Improving access to clean water (eg through rainwater tanks) in DRC, South Sudan and Zimbabwe
  • Collaborating with community and church leaders to spread public health messages in eg DRC, Pakistan, Ethiopia and Zambia. This is important where misinformation and superstition are fuelling beliefs such as the virus being ‘caused by witchcraft’. By working with trusted authority figures, remote communities and those in lockdown can still be reached.
  •  Using Christian and community radio stations to make public health broadcasts in eg Mozambique, Rwanda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
  • Providing personal protective equipment to health facilities in eg Zimbabwe.

Toilet Twinning is now inviting people to twin their tap for a donation of £60, although donations of any size are gratefully received. Funds raised through Tap Twinning will be used to fund Tearfund’s global coronavirus response.

And the invitation to ‘twin a toilet’ still stands. Tearfund partners are necessarily prioritising  handwashing and hygiene promotion in the first phase of their response to Covid-19, while communities are in lockdown. But their Covid-19 response will also include toilet-building and helping communities access clean water when and where possible.