New research/innovation field: emergency latrines

The Veolia Foundation has a long history of research and innovation in the field of humanitarian response. The project it is supporting with BCI Environnement, as part of its partnership with Médecins sans Frontières (MSF), is focused on sludge from latrines installed in refugee camps. This is a key issue with the increase in the number of these camps.

"The issue of latrine management and its impact on the progress of emergency projects is very largely underestimated. An operational solution to simplify management would be of great utility for humanitarian stakeholders."
Thibaut Constant

Latrine management is often the poor relation of emergency humanitarian operations. The increase in migration and the inexorable growth of the number of refugees make this a key issue for any camp infrastructure manager. The Veolia Foundation has been working alongside its partners for a long time to cope with the influx into these camps on every continent.

With Médecins sans Frontières (MSF), with which it has been working under a Master Agreement since 2012, the Foundation has undertaken to participate in several research-innovation programs. Among these programs is the use of encapsulated micro-organisms to reduce the volume of sludge to be managed in latrines. The objective is to test and even demonstrate the impact of these micro-organisms. The project therefore involves defining a study and monitoring protocol as well as carrying out analyses in the various camps in which the use of micro-organisms could be implemented. The Foundation is in contact with a number of humanitarian stakeholders, such as UNHCR, the Red Cross, and Croissant-Rouge, which are all aware of the interest of this issue. The French Red Cross will support the Ivorian Red Cross in adding and monitoring the micro-organisms in 200 latrines in Côte d'Ivoire in 2018. The International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) and Unicef want to provide a similar response in Bangladesh following the recent humanitarian crisis. Finally, UNHCR wishes to develop similar projects in the Zataari and Azraq camps in Jordan.

The Veolia Foundation will be working with Biotechnologie Concept Innovation (BCI) Environnement, a start-up specializing in environmental protection issues in humanitarian emergencies, for this research project. Its founder, Christophe Grange, has field experience, marked by partnerships with the ICRC, MSF, and the IFRC, and the desire to innovate in the proposed environmental solutions.

The project supported by the two partners aims to organize the capitalization of the experiments carried out by the various stakeholders in the countries concerned: Côte d'Ivoire with the French Red Cross, Bangladesh with MSF and the Veolia Foundation, and Jordan with the UNHCR. Each stakeholder remains responsible for its project and its financing in its geographical area but compliance with a unified protocol, jointly defined by the Foundation and BCI upstream, will allow a comparative study to be carried out. This benchmarking of experiments carried out in different climatic and human contexts should make it possible to qualify the relevance of the use of encapsulated micro-organisms in humanitarian emergency response. The project will run for at least twelve months and will include field missions to ensure the proper implementation of the study protocol and the rigor of the analyses conducted as well as collective feedback to prepare a joint conclusion.