About – WASH Innovation Challenge



UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia (ROSA), as the champion of children’s rights and issues, and BRAC, currently the #1 NGO in the world, are collaborating to host a Regional WASH Innovation Challenge for South Asia.


Hand washing with soap has been shown to reduce the risk of leading causes of illness and death among children. Causes such as pneumonia account for 16% of 5.6 million deaths of children under 5 years of age, while diarrhoea accounts for 8%. Over 750,000 deaths during the neonatal period (babies under 28 days old) are estimated to occur annually because of infectious syndromes such as sepsis, acute respiratory infection, neonatal tetanus, and diarrhoea.

Many of these infectious diseases can be prevented simply by washing hands with soap. Research studies have demonstrated that through hand washing interventions, the risk of diarrhoea can be reduced by 42-47%, and the risk of acute respiratory infection in children aged under 5 years can be reduced by half. A study has also found that neonatal mortality was significantly lower among children of mothers who reported washing their hands.

[Source: Levels and Trends in Child Mortality Report, 2017]


The purpose of the Regional WASH Innovation Challenge is to identify innovative solutions to promote hand washing with soap that can be implemented to scale in the South Asia region. In recognition of the significant role played by mothers and other caregivers in South Asia, the main objective of the Challenge is to promote hand washing with soap by mothers and caregivers during critical times: before preparing food, before feeding babies and children, after defecation, and after changing baby nappies.

The challenge will specifically drive towards:

  1. Development of innovative behaviour change campaigns promoting hand washing with soap during critical times by mothers and caregivers, tailored to local contexts and issues;
  2. Development of appropriate technologies to make hand washing with soap easier and more fun for mothers and caregivers during critical times;
  3. Development of innovative systems to measure and monitor hand washing at home, in schools and health centres in a sustainable way.

Using an evaluation criteria based on innovation and scalability, 50 ideas will be shortlisted from the initial submissions from the 8 countries in South Asia: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. These participants will receive support to develop their ideas into prototypes through a 5 step Water Challenge using Human Centered Design.

From these 50 prototypes, a joint team from UNICEF and BRAC team will invite 10 finalists to the Regional WASH Innovation Challenge finale in Bhutan to pitch their solutions. During the finale, 3 winners will be selected, who will receive a cash prize of $5000 each, and their solutions will get global exposure through UNICEF.