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The Mukombe

A useful idea sent in by Andrew Maclean, WaterAid, Rukungiri, Uganda.

1993 Available in English, French and Spanish

Footsteps magazine issues on a wooden desk.

From: Immunization – Footsteps 14

Practical tips for carrying out successful immunization programmes

A useful idea sent in by Andrew Maclean, WaterAid, Rukungiri, Uganda.


Handwashing after using a latrine is vital, but exactly how to do this when water is scarce is a major problem. Getting children to wash their hands is even harder. Placing a bowl by the latrine means that water will soon be contaminated and may spread disease. Besides, containers are too few and too valuable to leave by the latrine. Some people have developed the ‘tiptop’ using plastic containers. Here in Uganda we have found  a way of making these from gourds. This has become very popular. The gourds are plentiful and cheap, they do not develop algae as plastic containers do and they use very little water. Each person has a clean supply of water. Collect the waste water for the garden. Here are the plans for making a ‘Mukombe’ as we call them here in Rukungiri. Our Diocesan primary health care team is promoting these.

Choose gourds which have long curving necks. Cut a wooden plug to fit in the neck of the gourd, leaving a small hole for the water to run out.  Cut a hole to fill with water.

As the gourd or calabash is tipped, just enough water goes into the neck to allow hand washing.  Make sure that the gourd hangs at the same angle shown in the diagram. Avoid the gourd hanging at the angle shown in the small diagram, otherwise all the water will run out. A small half tin hanging above the soap protects it from rain.

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