Dignity for people with disabilities in emergencies

They face not only discrimination, but also barriers to accessing services.

Jessica Tribbe, Innovation Specialist, Water & Sanitation
Hanaa, 8, who was paralysed by an exploding bomb and lost the use of her legs, sits in a wheelchair next to her sister Khadija, 5, near their home in Sakhoor neighborhood, east Aleppo city, Syrian Arab Republic.
UNICEF/UN0177789/Al-Issa
27 April 2017

Approximately one billion people in the world are living with a disability, 80% of which are living in developing countries. 1 in 10 are children and this number is ever growing. People with disabilities face not only social discrimination but also barriers to accessing services such as health, education, employment, and transportation.

This inequality is further exacerbated during emergencies – as the environment and infrastructure lack design to accommodate their needs – potentially leading to further marginalization. Improvements in the accessibility of the environment, buildings, and facilities, including latrines, can help foster inclusion.

A boy stands outside newly installed latrines in a Buhimba camp for the displaced, near Goma, capital of North Kivu Province.
UNICEF/UNI5674/Holt
A boy stands outside newly installed latrines in a Buhimba camp for the displaced, near Goma, capital of North Kivu Province.

Developing assistive technologies (ATs) can provide children with disabilities more access to basic services. ATs can be a powerful tool to increase a child’s independence and participation, especially during emergencies. Sanitation solutions in refugee and IDP settings typically consist of plastic plates layed over a pit dug in the ground and covered with temporary sheeting or basic structures. These pit latrines are usually communal squat-style toilets and are constructed in blocks of 5 to 10 stalls. These temporary structures lack the components that provide accessibility to elderly and people with disabilities, including children. In some cases, local solutions such as small wooden stools are set over the slab hole – providing access to disabled individuals. However, these solutions can pose health and safety issues to users since they are not standard products which can be safely attached to the plastic plate. Also, this short term solution can be unsteady when used, and difficult to clean, collecting dirt and bacteria.

"Accessible latrines for women, men, boys and girls with disabilities will bring dignity and fulfill basic rights for people with disabilities affected by disasters and conflict... simple innovations can go a long way in improving everyday lives, including in emergency contexts.”

Gopal Mitra, Programme Specialist at the Disability Unit, UNICEF
On 13 March, a woman waits to use one of the UNICEF-provided latrines in a transit camp near the Tunisian-Libyan border.
UNICEF/UNI107680/Ramoneda
On 13 March, a woman waits to use one of the UNICEF-provided latrines in a transit camp near the Tunisian-Libyan border.

UNICEF seeks to improve this solution and provide better access to latrines in emergency settings such as refugee camps and settlements. In 2016, UNICEF Supply Division (SD) shared a Target Product Profile (TPP), which includes product criteria to guide product developers on designing new solutions which can easily be integrated into the existing latrine products used by UNICEF in emergencies.

A call for Request for Proposals (RFP) has now been launched seeking prototypes of innovative design solutions. The purpose of this call is to receive solutions and field trial these across various UNICEF settings.

This aims to:

  • Encourage suppliers to consider or develop universal designs that address a broader spectrum of needs and disabilities
  • Emphasize the importance designing with the users, and in gathering feedback from the field
  • Encouraging more proposals that create solutions with an innovative lens
A displaced woman cleans latrines, near other tent structures in South Sudan.
UNICEF/UNI169055/Nesbitt
A displaced woman cleans latrines, near other tent structures in South Sudan.

This approach in product development is in line with UNICEF’s Innovation Principles including designing with the user to develop fit-for-purpose solutions; fostering a collaborative approach to engage a diverse set of expertise across disciplines and industries, and improving solutions through data-driven field trial methodologies.

 


For more information on this project, please visit the project page, and stay tuned for updates on the field trial later this year.