Credit: Mama’s Laef – Focus group Discussion in Pango – October 2020

Engineers without Borders (EWB) has been working in collaboration with Mamma’s Laef since September 2020 to help communities in Vanuatu transition to wider usage of washable and reusable nappies.

Mama’s Laef is a social enterprise owned by Jack and Mary from Pango Village in South Efate and they manufacture menstrual pads and child washable nappies from a home factory.

Earlier this year these products were distributed to Santo as relief supply kits after Tropical Cyclone Harold struck and caused extensive damage.

EWB, with support from the Australian Government and the New Zealand Government and in collaboration with Vanuatu’s Ministry of Health, is working to help Vanuatu communities shift to using reusable nappies rather than disposable nappies through appropriate solutions and technology.

EWB completed a series of community surveys and focus group discussions and came up with the concept of a non-electric washing machine.

A prototype for the non-electric washing machine is in design phase, and will be piloted and trialed in local communities soon.

The wider use of this non-electric washing machine and the safe disposal of child faeces from used nappies is very important as it can threaten public health if not disposed properly.

EWB is working alongside technical and research teams to come up with improved solutions to the safe disposal of wastewater containing child faeces on the different types of toilets used by different communities.

The output of this work will help Vanuatu’s Ministry of Health’s team to update the water, sanitation and hygiene guidelines in relation to safe disposal of waste by the use of washable nappies.

Some local business ideas are being discussed with communities as part of the project, such as the potential for laundry businesses using the new non-electric washing machine.

These collaborative efforts are helping the Department of Environmental Protection and Conservation to find solutions before proceeding to the second phase ban of single-use plastic items including non- biodegradable disposal nappies.

Beyond this project, EWB works to improve the knowledge and physical resources of people via grassroots engineering programs, capacity development, and sector leadership with the aim to inspire and mobilize a global community, believing in a world where technology can benefit all.

EWB’s Vanuatu Program is supported by the Australian Government (through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program) and the New Zealand Government.