Faecal Sludge and Wastewater Management in Emergencies – Treatment Products
Without faecal sludge and wastewater management, deadly diseases can quickly spread in humanitarian settings. UNICEF is seeking products that can treat faecal sludge and wastewater in emergencies.
During the onset of an emergency, UNICEF quickly deploys products to support sanitation services, including latrines. But what happens when the latrines fill up? A critical step is to ensure the safe treatment and disposal of human waste.
UNICEF has no products that are easy to deploy as a response to humanitarian emergencies and that can be used to treat faecal sludge and wastewater. Without comprehensive faecal sludge management, human waste can contaminate the environment and nearby drinking water sources which increases the risk of epidemics in already vulnerable populations. Deadly diseases, such as cholera and dysentery, can rapidly become dangerous outbreaks in crowded camps and other humanitarian settings.
Children under five years living in conflict zones are 20 times more likely to die from diarrhoea due to unsafe water and sanitation, than from direct violence associated with the conflict.
48 million children
In 2018, UNICEF estimated that 48 million children across 51 countries were affected by war, natural disaster or other types of emergencies.
No ‘out of the box’ solution
UNICEF has no ‘out of the box’ system that can treat faecal sludge and wastewater.
As UNICEF continues to respond to conflict situations and rapid onset emergencies, there is a need to have product options that treat faecal sludge and wastewater, that are quick to set up and make operational, and could function as a temporary solution or as a stop gap for longer term situations.
The product(s) will be pre-positioned and/or supplied through the UNICEF Catalogue to allow for a rapid response within the first 6-12 months of an emergency. It would support UNICEF and partners’ humanitarian response in conflict zones, refugee and displacement camps and the aftermath of disasters. It may also be used in urban and densely populated areas in developing countries.
UNICEF is working with UNICEF Country Offices, industry, manufacturers and key water and sanitation partners to determine if currently available treatment products are suitable for humanitarian settings, or if further innovation through research and development is needed.
Examples of suitable solutions could include
- Existing treatment products that work well and fit with UNICEF’s needs
- Adapt and improve existing treatment products to fit UNICEF’s needs
- Design and innovate new treatment products.
Products will need to be able to offer treatment solutions in challenging conditions, such as where it is not possible to dig a pit or in areas with limited space available. For example:
- Crowded areas where many people share public toilets, such as a refugee or displacement camp setting. This can result in latrine pits quickly filling up. There is a need for a temporary solution (stopgap) to be able to treat faecal sludge removed from pits so existing pits can continue to be used while more toilets and pits are being constructed.
- In areas with high groundwater tables and in locations that have challenging ground conditions (e.g. rocky terrain or urban areas) where pit excavation is challenging and not feasible.
- In areas where existing infrastructure is damaged e.g. following a natural disaster or conflict areas and where a stopgap and temporary solution is needed to ensure treatment while other infrastructure is repaired.
Faecal sludge and wastewater compositions can vary greatly between countries and contexts, driven by differences in user practices, water usage and consumption, climate, population density, area limitations and accessibility. This is an important consideration in selecting product/s and their likely success in treating faecal sludge and wastewater.
If no suitable products are available, UNICEF will mobilize and incentivize industry to innovate and adapt existing products and/or create new products to address these challenges.
The sanitation value chain
Faecal sludge management in the world’s largest refugee camp
In August 2017 hundreds of thousands of Rohingya people fled Myanmar for the Cox’s Bazar refugee camps in Bangladesh. The initial absence of comprehensive faecal sludge management in the camps placed the already vulnerable population at risk of major disease outbreaks. Human waste leaked from pit latrines into flooded walkways and areas where children played. While an ad-hoc system was eventually set up, this emergency demonstrated the need for easy to deploy sanitation solutions that can be supplied through the UNICEF Catalogue and prepositioned in advance to allow for a rapid and systematic response in humanitarian disasters.
UNICEF is on the ground before, during and after emergencies, working to reach children and families with life-saving aid and long-term assistance. The development of a pre-packaged deployable product/s or kit/s will help UNICEF and partners rapidly respond to sanitation needs in sudden onset emergencies.
The innovation project aims to reduce the negative impact untreated faecal sludge and wastewater has on human health and the environment.
With the ability to set up treatment facilities for faecal sludge and wastewater, UNICEF will be able to help prevent deadly disease outbreaks including cholera and acute watery diarrhoea, saving children’s lives.