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University student’s hand-cranked washing machines sent to refugee camp

The machines could free up time for women and girls to pursue education and help prevent straining their bodies.

Nav Sawhney says his hand-cranked washing machines will help families living in refugee camps who struggle to hand-wash their clothes (UoB/PA)
Nav Sawhney says his hand-cranked washing machines will help families living in refugee camps who struggle to hand-wash their clothes (UoB/PA)

By Adam Hale, PA

Fifty new low-cost washing machines designed by a British university student are to be installed at an Iraq refugee camp this week.

The hand-cranked machines designed by University of Bath’s Nav Sawhney are hoped to help families living in the camps who struggle to hand-wash their clothes.

The 29-year-old named his Divya washing machines after a woman in southern India who told him the physical struggles she and others like her faced when washing clothes without a machine.

London-born Mr Sawhney, an engineer who is studying MSc humanitarian, conflict & development, said his project will now help displaced families in Kurdish and federal Iraq.

The 50 machines will be installed with the help of the Iraq Response Innovation Lab and Oxfam.

Mr Sawhney said: “In March 2019, we were lucky enough to be invited out to Kurdish Iraq by Care International, where we conducted a week-long field trial with two of our prototypes with 79 families in five IDP (internally displaced person) camps.

“The feedback was overwhelmingly positive and we were given some useful direction on how we could further improve our design. We have developed partnerships with large international NGOs and a funding pipeline.

“What drives us forward is a common goal to make the world a better place with the skills we have. The exciting thing is that we’re only just getting started.”

Hand washing is said to take some people more than 12 hours a week in deprived countries, preventing some women and girls in charge of the task from pursuing education and straining their bodies, leading to chronic back and joint pain.

The Divya has a drum capacity of 5kg but only uses 10 litres of water per cycle, as opposed to the 30 litres used by the average electric washing machine, which is crucial in water-scarce refugee camps.

The machine has a wash phase, clean phase and a dry phase, and runs all three phases in 15 minutes.

Nathalie Rami, from Iraq Response Innovation Lab, said: “The Iraq Response Innovation Lab is very pleased to provide seed funding to the washing machine project and support young entrepreneurs bringing innovative solutions to the humanitarian sector.

“The washing machine pilot project is likely to improve the life of displaced women and girls affected by crisis in Iraq.”

The Divyas were made with the help of 50 volunteers in November and December. The team have now set up a JustGiving crowd-funding page to help with the project.

PA

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