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Supplies and Logistics

Safe drinking water in emergencies

Safe drinking water in emergencies: UNICEF, PATH and private sector field test automatic chlorine generator

© © UNICEF/NYHQ2012-0879/Abdulmunem

Chlorine is a critical chemical for water treatment. It kills most disease-causing organisms commonly found in water, and offers protection against further recontamination. Historically, UNICEF has procured chlorine in the form of High Test Hypochlorite (HTH). HTH is fairly inexpensive but it is becoming increasingly difficult to transport due to air and sea shipment regulations. This makes it difficult for UNICEF to respond quickly to ensure safe water supply in emergency situations, particularly when chlorine needs to be procured off-shore.

In response to this challenge, UNICEF Supply Division’s Water, Sanitation and Education Centre (WSEC) has initiated an innovation collaboration to develop an easy-to-use machine to generate chlorine at the point of use.

Chlorine generation at the local level is an existing technology that works through the electrolysis of salt water into sodium hypochlorite. However, this project is centred on a new device that creates chlorine from salt water, but also uses a chip to detect chlorine levels and allows for automatic machine shut-off. It is easy to use and requires minimal formal training and monitoring. All that is needed to create chlorine is water, salt and a source of electricity (~300 Watt).

The first phase of the project has involved UNICEF working with PATH and partners to improve the design to better suit UNICEF’s needs. Based on the modified product, easy to use instructions and guidance notes have been developed.

As part of Phase II, two pilot units were recently received and the first was sent to Lebanon in response to the Syria emergency for field testing. The remaining device is expected to be sent to an additional country shortly. End-user feedback on the device will be fed back to UNICEF, and if required, the product, guidance, etc., will be modified.

Ultimately it is expected that this machine will be able to replace the traditional chlorine supply chain in emergency contexts and allow UNICEF and partners to more efficiently to provide children with access to clean water.



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