Globally, over 2.5 billion people lack consistent access to clean water. Of those with intermittent access, their supplies are routinely interrupted by drought, weak economies, broken piping, and conflict, among other issues. When water is such a precious resource, how to make use of it can be a life or death decision. Most prioritize nutrition – either for direct consumption or cooking. Cleanliness is often lower on the list of priorities, despite hygiene being one of the foremost concerns in the Global South to help prevent disease. Acknowledging this, a young entrepreneur from South Africa has has become South Africa’s youngest patent holder for his development of a waterless bathing substitute that could both increase the health of millions in the Global South and help conserve water supplies.
Ludwick Marishane, a now 22 year-old native of South Africa, conceived of and began development of his product, DryBath, at the age of 17. Having grown up in the rural province of Limpopo, he was no stranger to living with minimal access to basic necessities, including potable water. Equipped with only an internet-enabled cellphone, Marishane scoured the internet for similar products and potential market demand. He came up with his product, wrote his business plan, and pitched it to investors all from his cell phone. Marishane was chosen as the 2011 Global Social Entrepreneur of the Year, his innovation beating out 1600 students from 42 countries. With the financial winnings, Marishane has founded Headboy Industries, which aims to be an innovative commercial enterprise that seeks to provide global solutions to poverty issues. Marishane and his team have expanded the reach of his innovation and are marketing it globally.
DryBath is a germicidal, waterless bathing substitute; the first of its kind. It is a blend of biocide, bioflavonoids, and moisturisers that kills 99.9% of bacteria on contact. The product is similar to hand sanitizers like Purell, although it doesn’t contain alcohol and creates an odourless, biodegradable cleansing film that can be wiped off or left to dry. The product is safe for use all over the body, and one satchet provides enough gel for an all-over bath. The aim of the product is not to eliminate the need for using water for hygiene practices, but rather to cut down on the use of water while maintaining healthy levels of cleanliness.
The product is sold in individual sachets, such that they can easily be carried on one’s person. The product is currently being marketed to corporates at a cost of USD $1.50 per sachet. It is being sold for USD $0.50 or less across the Global South. All sales are matched by Headboy Industries, so for every sachet purchased, another is donated to partner charities. Marishane has zeroed in on this packaging to tap into a variety of Western markets based on inaccessibility to water during travel, such as airlines, the military, camping/backpacking and other uses. This is not to say that his innovation was not born out of the very conditions he grew up with. While the price tag may be out of reach for much of the chronically poor, it has the potential to be tremendously useful for humanitarian aid agencies responding to emergencies or working within IDP camps, where access to basic necessities are direly needed in large amounts and can be logistical nightmare to procure.
Bars of soap are traditionally provided to IDPs in NFI kits (SPHERE suggests 250g of bathing soap per ration kit), yet the water required to use it is seriously scarce, particularly in post-conflict or emergency settings. Relatedly, IDP camps are notorious for being intensely overcrowded and often house less than adequate sanitation facilities and water distribution points. As such, IDP settlements are breeding grounds for disease. DryBath could help combat this problem and help to reduce the communication of water-borne diseases that result from bathing in and (inadvertently) consuming contaminated water. DryBath can be provided in dispenser drums for widespread availability at WASH stations and it can be provided in refillable bottles in NFI kits. On the camp management end, the product can also help agencies to divert a percentage of water supplies away from personal hygiene and they can be reallocated to consumption for nutrition.
It is estimated that 40-80L of water is used when one bathes or showers. While it can be assumed that this much water is not being used in the developing world for bathing, or in IDP camps in particular, the question still remains: if and when water can be saved, why shouldn’t it be?
For more information about Marishane’s company and product, visit their website, and listen to him discuss the evolution of DryBath below: