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Sustainable sanitation in emergency kits – Research project under the European Framework Programme (FP7)

June 3, 2011

The S(P)EEDKITS proposal “Rapid deployable kits as seeds for self-recovery” has been successfully accepted under the security theme under the FP7. S(P)EEDKITS aim at speeding up the rapid response after disasters of providing state-of-the-art material kits in terms of shelter, medical care and water and sanitation and energy supply tailored for humanitarian agencies.

The principle is modular which means that the response can be rapid and light weight in the first phases when time is precious, and then adapted and built on when the emergency situation allows for other supplies to arrive. The materials and concepts are novel such as lightweight but durable and thermally isolating tent materials, novel concepts for energy supply (biogas from sanitation, solar energy), small devices for desalination of water, textile to line pit latrines, light weight textiles to store and distribute water, smart packaging of materials (e.g. in smaller units that can be carried by persons/animals). Settlement kit modules will be developed that can be used for debris recuperation and re-use of damaged facilities, a variety of shelters and facilities, like energy and communication points, safe houses for infants etc.

The project will be guided by operational humanitarian actors; the Red Cross, MSF, Norwegian Refugee Council, supported by the humanitarian research entities Waste and Practica.

The sanitation component

The S(P)EEDKITS has a sanitation component which is led by WASTE. The proposal addresses innovation in emergency sanitation, especially for urban areas as well as the transition to more long term conditions in the post-acute phase. In addition it addresses the need to tailor sanitation options to different segments of the displaced population, which consists for 80% of vulnerable people, namely women, children, elderly, and people with a disability. Of special interest is that within S(P)EEDKITS we will use novel coated textile materials as a key building component for sanitation parts. This gives clear advantages when it comes to weight and volume of packaging. The sanitation system in the proposal is a modular add-on system which serves both the immediate, and long term self-building recovery phase. Add-on modules will enable the local users at the construction site to choose and ‘activate’ any of the multiple options built into the platform, to fit their needs and demands. There are ‘add-ons’ for children, hand-washing, anal cleansing, urine diversion, urinal, ventilation pipe, biogas etc. The platform with its ‘add-ons’, should be easy to locally manufacture in developing countries, or apply its concepts locally, so that in a reconstruction phase, stimulation of self-repair is done as early as possible. For the short term, one of the key lessons learned in the first months of the earthquake response operation in Haiti was the need for flexibility regarding the individual context of each camp and neighborhood; determining the most appropriate solution to residents’ sanitation needs.

The different sanitation options can be transferred to the local community through the camp facilities and technical personnel. Add-ons for children need include small seats as well as a light and bright environment in the toilet to reduce fear of falling into the pit, darkness, snakes and other animals. Elderly and disabled prefer toilet seating and grips to get up and down. Furthermore, extra space is appropriate for wheelchairs and people who take care of them. The option of anal cleansing with water is crucial as this is practiced in many cultures and will be considered as an add-on. Combined with a UD toilet, anal cleansing water has to be separated from the faecal matter in order to prolong the life time of the pit or container.

Energy is important in emergency areas. Several options exist and one is the use of biogas. The S(P)EEDKITS sanitation option will be designed so that it is possible to also include an option which converts excreta into energy through bio-gas production, which can be used as fuel for cooking. At the moment, no rapid deployable solutions for biogas generation are known to the project partners.  The idea is to have a sanitation-biogas system for ca. 200 people. This size of system will produce about 15-20 m3 of biogas per day with faeces and extra collected household kitchen waste. This is a relatively small amount of gas but it will enable to operate a central kitchen to cook food for the same amount of people. The use of bio-gas means that no or less wood/charcoal is needed, which reduces costs and is beneficial for both the environment and the respiratory health of people.

The first prototypes will be mainly done by PRACTICA and WASTE. Sioen Industries and Centexbel will develop the necessary coated textiles. Assistance will be given by other project partners.

For more information please contact the Project coordinator is Guy Buyle at Centexbel, e-mail:, Phone: +32 9 220 41 51.

An official website will soon be launched with more information. The site link will be included here in the future.

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