An important strand of the HIF’s work to develop innovations in emergency WASH will be brokering new collaborations to tackle specific challenges.
Throughout 2014 and 2015 the HIF will convene a number of Accelerated Innovation challenges, focusing on the most pressing concerns of the sector identified in the HIF’s WASH Gap Analysis and selected by the HIF’s WASH Technical Working Group.
The process will aim to identify and test high impact solutions that, if successful, can be replicated and scaled. Central to this approach is the belief that collaboration between different actors in the humanitarian system - aid agencies, the private sector, and academia – stimulates the identification of novel ideas, which can be developed and tested through structured Research and Development processes. To achieve this, the HIF will host a series of events looking at specific problems, supporting diverse groups with funding to develop and competitively appraise proposed solutions.
Working in collaboration with innovation management experts Viadynamics, initial challenges to be tackled in early 2014 include:
1. How can we combine (new or existing) hand-washing hardware solutions with innovative approaches to the promotion of hand washing by affected communities? A component of this should be to heighten our evidence base in hand washing practices – what new methods can practitioners in the field do to measure hand washing?
It is now well documented that regular hand washing, especially before eating or when preparing food, has a significant positive health impacts, and is important in controlling the spread of disease. However, it remains extremely challenging to get the majority of people washing their hands in the aftermath of a disaster or during an ongoing emergency:
2. To develop new approaches, techniques and equipment to provide safe excreta disposal in urban environments in the immediate aftermath of disaster. Solutions should consider not only the containment, but also the emptying frequency and means, as well as disposal mechanisms. This work needs to be undertaken in close collaboration with the OFDA funded Emergency Sanitation Project.
In rapid onset urban emergencies, such as earthquakes, floods or conflict, water supplies are often disrupted or cut-off, toilets cease to work and wastewater systems are overwhelmed. In addition, displaced people often gather in communal buildings, such as schools, which do not have adequate sanitation facilitates, or have access to insufficient water to operate them.
Beyond these initial challenges, the HIF is conducting preparatory work on the following: issues of community participation, sanitation marketing, medium-to-large scale community level excreta management, and the issue of drainage solutions in refuge and other camp settings.
The two challenges ran concurrently over two days, with the HIF convening a group of relevant expertise from designers, academics, humanitarian practitioners, and private sector actors to explore the challenge in depth. Of the two areas, the urban sanitation challenge proved more successful, with several proposals subsequently developed, and a handful selected for funding.
The following partnerships have been supported to take their proposal further:
GOAL, based in Kenya, and Sanergy, a social enterprise based in Nairobi’s slums, are working together to develop suitable sanitation solutions for urban emergencies where both time and space are limited. GOAL and Sanergy will develop a Faecal Sludge Management (FSM) bulk consolidation container that enables bag-based sanitation systems to be easily and safely disposed of in the early stages of an emergency.
This project relates to the ongoing need to have sustainable pit latrine options in emergencies, particularly in situations where it is difficult to repeatedly dig new pits as they fill. WASTE Advisers in Urban Environment and Development, working in partnership with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM); Emergency Sanitation Project (ESP); The Sanitation Window (SAWI); and The Zuiderzeeland Regional Water Authority, have been funded to develop sanitation innovations for humanitarian disasters in urban areas, focused on understanding decomposition and stabilisation in pit latrines.
There will doubtless be much learning and many unexpected outcomes from the process and the projects funded, which the HIF will document and share. The HIF will also be holding a discussion on wider issues of community participation in WASH programming that will feed into future challenges. Ultimately, the success of any promising innovations will depend on their ability to get traction in the wider sector based on evidence of their performance. To enable this, it is essential the HIF shares the process through which these innovations are identified and developed. As these challenges evolve, the HIF will continue to learn and refine in the process using these challenges as a test bed for how we can improve and expand our work to manage innovation in humanitarian settings.
Please contact the HIF team if you are a WASH or innovation expert wishing to be involved in these processes.