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UNICEF Innovation

The Jerry Can (Collapsible Water Container)

Ensuring safe drinking water is an essential first response in any emergency situation.

© UNICEF/2006/Giacomo Pirozzi

In 2007, UNICEF Supply Division launched an innovation project to develop an alternative to the traditional flexible jerry can used in emergency response. Although this previous model was appropriate or packing and transport, it was non-rigid, making it inconvenient for carrying water. The project was initiated by the UNICEF Water, Sanitation and Hygiene community and the UNICEF Supply Division (SD) Water, Sanitation & Education Centre (WSEC). It was a continuation of a previous project where UNICEF SD collaborated with Kaos Pilots, Kolding Design School and Danish Technical University (DTU) to develop concepts for the water container challenge.

Specifications for the Jerry Can
The container was designed with the following specifications:

  • Capacity: It should carry 10L of water

  • Transportability: It should be collapsible and stackable for easy packing and transportation 

  • Usability: The container must be easy to use - including pouring, filling, storing and carrying water

  • Rigidity for carrying on head and back

  • Durability

  • Cost over its life cycle

  • Sustainability

  • Suitability for different climates

Trialling the proposed solution
UNICEF SD’s WSEC team worked with Promens Packaging GmbH and the DTU team to develop the design for an impoved, fit-for-purpose solution, addressing the user needs.  The new design was field-tested in Afghanistan, CAR, Sudan, and Haiti. It was trialled in direct comparison to existing water containers to determine which is preferred by the end user. Furthermore, different cultures have different means of carrying filled water containers (e.g. some carry them on their heads while others carry them on their backs).  The field testing took this into account by testing in 4 different countries. Based on the feedback of the field-testing, the new Jerry Can is being redesigned to better suit end-user needs and will be field-tested again in 2015. 
Latest Project Update 

Based on the feedback from field-testing in Afghanistan, CAR, Sudan and Haiti, the new jerry can is being re-designed to better suit end-user needs.

Recommended changes:

  1. Greater rigidity, particularly in countries where it is common practice to carry the Jerry Can on the head.

  2. A larger spout to reduce wastage when pumping water into the Jerry Can.

  3. Potential removal of the second handle, as this drags on the ground when a single child carries the Jerry Can.

Implemented Actions:
The size of the spout has been increased to 2 inches as a standard feature of the traditional flexible Jerry Can supplies by UNICEF.

Current Actions:
UNICEF, in partnership with Promens, is developing a new model to incorporate the recommendations of the field-testing. The work on developing a new prototype will commence in 2014 and field testing of the new model is planned for the beginning of the second quarter 2015. 

Challenges moving forward:

  1. Finding the balance between ease of shipping (less rigidity) and durability (more rigidity).

  2. Financial feasibility of the redesign, as it is estimated the price will rise due to the more complex manufacturing process.

  3. Creating a design for different end-users (head carriers and non-head carriers).




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