ECO-SOAP BANK

The Issues

THE HYGIENE ISSUE

Faucets
©Eco-Soap Bank 2015

Clean water, proper sanitation, and hygiene are some of the most important factors in keeping rural families healthy. Unfortunately, hygiene is often overlooked as a public health intervention. 1.6 million deaths per year are attributed to unsafe water, poor sanitation, and lack of hygiene, including lack of access to soapHygiene Challenges and Resources in Lower Income Countries. cdc.gov. <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/hygiene/ldc/hygiene_challenges.html" target="_blank">https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/hygiene/ldc/hygiene_challenges.html</a>. Updated January 20, 2015. Accessed February 1, 2017..

We believe in hand washing because it's been shown to reduce the presence of harmful bacteria by 92%Burton M, Cobb E, Donachie P, et al. The Effect of Handwashing with Water or Soap on Bacterial Contamination of Hands. <i>Int J Environ Res Public Health</i>. 2011 Jan; 8(1): 97-104. <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3037063/" target="_blank">https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3037063/</a>. Published online January 6, 2011. Accessed February 3, 2017.. And the developing world continues to struggle with high child mortality rates— it's estimated that 11 children under age five died every minute in 2015Under-Five Mortality: Current Status + Progress. unicef.org. <a href="https://data.unicef.org/topic/child-survival/under-five-mortality/" target="_blank">https://data.unicef.org/topic/child-survival/under-five-mortality/</a>. Updated October 2016. Accessed March 9 2017.. The way we see it, soap is an essential human resource.

The poor hygiene situation is exacerbated by the lack of proper hygiene education and the use of relatively ineffective alternatives to soap, like bamboo ash or soil. Some rural populations tend to bathe and wash their hands using laundry detergent, which contains toxic chemicals absorbable through the skin. The developing world needs access to suitable hygiene products.

Our objective is to grant parents peace of mind so they know their children are free from preventable illnesses like diarrheal disease. We work to keep children out of hospitals and back in schools, where they can secure a bright future for themselves.

Children Washing Hands with Pail
©Eco-Soap Bank 2015

THE ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUE

The Environment in Cambodia
©Sharon Radisch for Photographers Without Borders 2016

Tourism is an important component of many developing economies. Cambodia, for instance, attracts the attention of nearly five million tourists each year<i>Tourism Statistics Report: Year 2016</i>. Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Cambodian Ministry of Tourism, Statistics and Tourism Information Department. <a href="http://www.tourismcambodia.org/images/mot/statistic_reports/tourism_statistics_year2016.pdf" target="_blank">http://www.tourismcambodia.org/images/mot/statistic_reports/tourism_statistics_year2016.pdf</a>. Accessed February 2, 2017. to admire the beauty of the legendary Angkor Wat temples, and hundreds of hotels have opened to accommodate them.

Normally, all used soap bars from hotel rooms are discarded and sent to landfills, along with other toiletry waste like bottles of lotion, conditioner, and shampoo. This is a significant volume of non-biodegradable material.

Eco-Soap Bank seeks to mitigate this waste in service of the severe global hygiene problem. After we collect used soap bars, unused toiletries, and water bottles from hotels, we sanitize and reprocess the soap into new bars and distribute them to rural communities.

In addition to the widespread lack of soap, many rural populations have never used toiletries like shampoo or lotion. The Eco-Soap Bank takes pride in providing items that can have such a positive and uplifting impact on community well-being.

Making Soap by Hand
©Sharon Radisch for Photographers Without Borders 2016

THE ECONOMIC ISSUE

Cambodian children in school
©Eco-Soap Bank 2015

Hospitals in many locales have become desperately overcrowded with patients seeking treatment from hygiene-related illnesses. Many hospitals are regularly forced to sacrifice quality of care for capacityRaka L, Mullqi-Osmani G. Infection Control in Developing World. In Sudhakar C, ed. <i>Infection Control - Updates</i>. Rijeka, Croatia: InTech; 2012:65-78. <a href="http://cdn.intechopen.com/pdfs/28878.pdf" target="_blank">http://cdn.intechopen.com/pdfs/28878.pdf</a>. Accessed February 1, 2017.. We believe that by providing soap to communities, we can reduce the number of Cambodians who make the costly trip from their rural homes to distant hospitals for healthcare.

School absenteeism is another major factor. The poorest populations in developing countries have net primary school attendence rates as low as 4%Education: Current Status + Progress. unicef.org. <a href="https://data.unicef.org/topic/education/overview/" target="_blank">https://data.unicef.org/topic/education/overview/</a>. Updated April 2016. Accessed February 9, 2017.. By making soap available both in the home and in school bathrooms, the Eco-Soap Bank hopes to decrease the number of students missing school due to illness so that their educations can proceed uninterrupted.

Women in many developing nations also face myriad challenges. Steady employment for women is one of the most serious economic issues in developing countries todayWomen’s Economic Empowerment; The Key to a Sustainable World. globalwa.org. <a href="http://globalwa.org/issues/2017-2/womens-economic-empowerment-key-sustainable-world/" target="_blank">http://globalwa.org/issues/2017-2/womens-economic-empowerment-key-sustainable-world/</a>. Updated 2017. Accessed March 9, 2017.. All Eco-Soap Bank soapmakers are women who come from disadvantaged backgrounds and have no other reliable source of income.

By employing them at a good wage, we hope to alleviate their burdens and to support their families. Soap becomes a product made by and for local communities, and the women can feel good about working for the benefit of those in need.

Soapmakers in an Eco-Soap Bank Workshop
©Sharon Radisch for Photographers Without Borders 2016
References