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Bangladesh Rohingya crisis (WASH series) - Innovative WASH options

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What innovative WASH options exist for situations of severe population overcrowding and limited space? What lessons have been learned from their application?


A rapid review of the literature has found a selection of innovative WASH options available for situations of severe population overcrowding and limited spaces.  Case study information was collated from African, Middle Eastern, South Asian and Caribbean countries.   As requested, a number of experts were consulted for their opinion where there was a lack of project evaluations or grey literature.

Key Findings

  • The ‘Innovation in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene’ case study shows that although the general picture is one of incremental change, priorities have shifted between the three subsectors, leading to differences in the pace of innovation in each area (Rush and Marshall, 2015: 1). Early findings show that competitions are leading to a shift in the priorities of the government, making sanitation more visible and important (Ideas to Impact, 2015).
  • In some cases, e.g. refugee camps, extending the lifespan of latrines is more important than the technology used (Patinet, 2010; von Münch & Ingle, 2012: 4-1). Innovative urine diversion dehydration (UDD).
  • Private sector involvement is essential for improved pit emptying technologies, such as the modified pedal-powered (manual) Gulper technology (Chipeta et al., 2017) and eVac (Greene et al., 2017) have both been used in Malawi and Rwanda, respectively. An automated SMS service from the government has been used to decrease costs of faecal sludge removal in Senegal.
  • The delegated management model (DMM) approach to improve water utility services specifically for the urban poor in Kenya is similar to innovative approaches used in Dhaka, Bangladesh and Manila, The Philippines (WSP, 2009: 3)
  • Community-led and social innovations, such as DEWATS and CLTS, are popular in South Asian countries. Some cities have piloted city-wide Learning Alliances to trigger cross-learning in communities (Sutherland et al. 2015).  Social marketing, as well as business and financing models, are other innovations which can be incorporated in up-scaling WASH projects for the urban poor (UN Habitat, 2014a: 34; Dubois, 2017: 1).
  • Approximately 6,000 people have benefitted from SOIL’s growing container-based sanitation (CBS) EkoLakay and EcoMobil toilet using their innovative social business plan in Haiti (Tilmans et al., 2015). Latrines based on innovative CBS designs have helped almost eliminate open faecal defaecation (OFD) in Haiti.
  • e-vouchers that can be spent on hygiene items are used in Syrian camps (Aggiss, 2016: 5); The Urinal Project by Cewas Middle East provides a safe odourless unisex alternative to using camp toilet blocks. In Lebanon, GPS technology and installation of flow-o-meters will now be used to improve accountability for household sanitation services (UNHCR, 2016: 41 interviews).