Dry toilets for refugees in Lebanon

  • Neige
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Dry toilets for refugees in Lebanon

Dear Colleagues,

I am working with an NGO in Lebanon, where the situation for refugees is dramatic.

At the beginning of the crisis, basic emergency toilets have been distributed. These latrines consist in a hole in the ground and a steel shelter. Water is used to flush and drain waste. However, because of the lack of maintenance and the lack of water, there is most of the time an accumulation of excrements in the toilets.
Moreover, toilets are very close to tents (between 2 and 4 meters), causing a health danger especially when it rains - it is furthermore important to stress that tents are not equipped of trench to evacuate water and avoid floods. Another danger is that the settlements are bordering the cultivated fields, which is damaging agricultural soils, causing pollution and field contamination.

We believe that dry toilets – particularly Urine-diverting Dry Toilet -are the best solution to respond to this situation. I am looking for any advices.

Considering that the infrastructure of the distributed toilets could be reused (Shelter + ceramic slabs) would anyone have an approximate idea of the cost to make a dry toilet?

What are the materials needed for the construction of a dry toilets?

Thank you in advance for any help you could provide.
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  • JKMakowka
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Re: Dry toilets for refugees in Lebanon

Dear Neige, thanks for posting this very important question.

First off, have you thought about the acceptability in regards to anal washers, which I assume is the common cleaning behavior in Lebanon/Syria? While not impossible, it adds a further layer of complexity if you mix dry toilets with anal washing behavior... Or are people fine with dry methods using toilet paper (and how is the supply situation regarding toilet paper?).

Personally I don't think UDDTs are the appropriate solution for refugee camps, mainly because:
1. A refugee camp is a difficult setting to change behavior, and people are already stressed a lot and might not want to deal with unfamiliar sanitation systems. And a UDDT that is not used properly will quickly turn into a big nuisance for the users and the maintenance crews.

2. Normally you have high number of users per toilet, but UDDTs need time to dry the feces. Overloaded UDDTs start to smell badly and attract fly breeding. Especially the latter is a big issue in a camp setting.

My suggestion would be to look into low flush pans (maybe SaTo?) with a container based storage of feces that is emptied on a bi-weekly basis or so. These need to be either fly proof, or be pre-filled with these blue "chemical-toilet" liquids (but note that these make treatment and disposal more complicated). In addition it makes a lot of sense to install urinals for men and collect and dispose the urine separately.

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  • Neige
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Re: Dry toilets for refugees in Lebanon

Dear JKMakowka,

Thank you so much for answering my call so quickly, I really appreciate.

Actually, I need to make some clarifications on the situation:

The refugees we want to target are not leaving in camps, but in informal settlements, which are very dispersed.
An informal settlement consists in tents ( between 2 and 5 - knowing that there is between 10 and 15 persons per tent) randomly installed, most of the time close to an agricultural field, where they are employed.

These refugees have an extremely limited access to water ( sometimes only few days in a month). Consequently, toilets - which are supposed to be flushed with water- are not. Most of the time, people use these toilets without water, resulting in an accumulation of excrements inside the latrine. Otherwise, open defecation became a common practise.

This is why, considering these facts, I thought that the best solution would be to provide a system of toilets not conceived to use water, since it is much more cleaner and decreases the risk of diseases.
One of the advantages is that they will be able to save a considerable amount of water and use it for other purpose (mainly washing).

In order not to be overloaded, what is the maximum number of persons that could use the toilet per day?
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  • cecile
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Re: Dry toilets for refugees in Lebanon

Dear Neige,

WEDC has published technical notes for emergencies : wedc.lboro.ac.uk//knowledge/index.html and several ressources that can be useful to deal with sanitation in emergency.

For the UDDT I only partially agree with you Kris ...
If you install UDDT toilets in a refugee camp you can deal with the issue of smell by installing a ventilator in the exhaust pipe of the chamber containing the faeces (even with solar panel). Make sure the exhaust pipe has a fly screen and the ventilator also. And make sure you clean the screens often. What is important is that the chamber is as airtight as possible. Air tight chamber + good ventilation will get rid of the smell mechanically.
To speed up the dryin process or composting process, it will depend on what you find in the area : ash, paint the door of the chamber in black. If it is an agricultural region you can also put local earthworms in the chamber (in that case do not paint the door in black because earthworms like humidity. Put them on the side (not right in the middle of the feces pile) with earth they are used to.

If it is a flood prone area you need to make raised toilets and make sure the feces chamber is a little bit raised or at least build a mound around it.

Urine can be infiltrated in the ground with a simple perforated pipe in a bed of sand and gravel. The lenght of the drain will depend on sol permeability but to give you an exemple, a 8 meter drain can manage the urine of 100 persons per day.

All this can be done if you know the refugees are there for a while. It is not adapted for temporary camps. But sometimes camps last for many years...


I agree with Kris about the difficulty to change attitudes and how well will people understand about a UD system so this would have to be evaluated with a quick survey.

Wand Foundation from the Philippines, who is also a partner of SuSanA has used ecosan toilets in flooded areas after the typhoon Hayian in the Philippines. I am sure they can give you very practical advice on this issue.

Good luck with your project.

Cecile

Cécile Laborderie
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Re: Dry toilets for refugees in Lebanon

Neige wrote: In order not to be overloaded, what is the maximum number of persons that could use the toilet per day?


That depends on many factors, like temperature, air humidity, active ventilation, humidity content of feces (much higher with diarrhea!) etc.

Usually I would not recommend a single UDDT for more than 5 (maybe 10 in hot & dry climates) regular users, but I guess that is a relative conservative figure that keeps in mind that many of the promoted benefits from UDDTs really only work if the feces dry quickly. And only if that is the case, people can be convinced that it is actually a better technology than flush toilets or pit-latrines.

Also thanks for the clarification in regards to the setting, but I don't think this changes much in my recommendations, except that regular container replacement services will be much harder to do in dispersed settlements.

@cecile: fair points, but with all that extra effort you probably still end up with something that from a user's point of view is not better than a standard VIP.

P.S.: if the water supply situation is so bad, maybe that is something one should look at first? Pit-latrines also do not really cause that much pollution problems from an purely agricultural perspective (one might call it organic fertilizer ;) ).

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  • muench
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Re: Dry toilets for refugees in Lebanon

Just a couple of quick comments from my side:

Great that Cécile pointed you to the work of Elmer in the Philippines. He's also posted about his work on the forum, see here for using UDDTs after flooding:
forum.susana.org/forum/categories/179-fl...-on-use-of-uddts#804

and here after a typhoon:
forum.susana.org/forum/categories/67-cha...oon-haiyan-survivors

So, it seems that UDDTs have worked in those situations in the Philippines - with the right setup, guidance and maintence provided by Elmer's team (?).

I think it's important in your case, if you think that UDDTs could work, to go for the single vault UDDTs with removable containers where the feces bins can be emptied as often as needed (and the feces can receive further treatment in a separate composting or drying step). That's better than going for double vault UDDTs and then you are not restricted to Kris' design figure of 5 users per UDDT.

If you want to read more about single and double vault UDDTs, the Wikipedia page is a good starting point and will point you to all the important documents:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urine-diverting_dry_toilet

Neige, could you tell us a bit more which NGO this is and which refugees (just curious) - are they mainly Syrians? Are you saying they have stopped the anal cleansing with water due to lack of water? Is that difficult/uncomfortable for them?

Regards,
Elisabeth

P.S. It is so important to make these refugee camps into decent living spaces so that we don't send more people onto these dangerous trips to Europe (drownings at sea) and crowding into the few countries willing to accept them (currently only Germany and Sweden, it seems). The pictures of thousands and thousands of refugees on that Balkan route in the cold weather now are quite horrendous although I totally understand that after some years in such a refugee camp someone would say "I've had enough, I will try my luck in another country!". So it's very difficult.

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  • cecile
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Re: Dry toilets for refugees in Lebanon

Hi again,

In France we are using dry toilets a) for major events like festivals receiving thousands of people b) like a solution for places loaded with tourists (sometimes 10 000 per day). (see ecosec member of this group, ecodomeo, saniverte, petit coin nature.... I think an Australian company is also starting to provide dry toilets for camps (I don't remember their name)
I have always thought that these kind of toilets would be adapted to refugee camps because I think there isn't really a limit is terms of number of users. The limit is the size of the composting chamber (considering 0.2 liters of feces/person/day).
What I know is that these toilet do not smell because there is either a passive ventilation (with a heat extractor, then it might smell in the morning) or a mecanic ventilation (no smell at all). And there are not flies because of the screens, and a fly trap. As a result there is little maintenance to do and the toilets have high standard (appreciated by people in Europe). The interesting thing is to infiltrate urine in the ground which removes most of the volume which needs ot be treated.

I would not be in favor of removable containers in a refugee camp because of lack of water, hence limited ressources for personal hygiene and risk of epidemics. I think you also need experienced and motivated human ressources to do compost of faeces which still has a high content in humidity and it also creates a risk with the flies (I think feces should remained contained until it is well hygienised).

By the way there is also a sanitation in emergencies working group in this website with a fact sheet on the topic and also plenty of other ressources on sanitation in emergencies. Here : www.susana.org/en/working-groups/emergen...struction-situations .


As Elizabeth was saying please let us know more about your NGO, project and environment !

Cecile

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Re: Dry toilets for refugees in Lebanon

How long where these in use during festivals? I don't think a few days of heavy use is at all comparable to use in a camp setting for several weeks or months (sometimes years... :( ).

Fly breeding needs 7-14 days for the first generation to mature (plus the initial time for the flies to find the latrines and lay the eggs. So the real problems with flies start after two weeks and in my experience screens and active ventilation is definitely not sufficient to deal with the thousands of flies that very quickly grow up in the pits.
Only a real physical seal (water or not) or quick drying to prevent the larvae to develop into adults.

I also don't understand your point of lacking water preventing the use of removable containers. But I agree that composting etc. is probably to complicated, but the contents of the containers can also be disposed in a landfill for a while.

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  • canaday
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Re: Dry toilets for refugees in Lebanon

Dear Neige,

I think UDDTs are a good option for this case, but it is key to emphasize education and follow-up. It is also key to demonstrate the benefits and not oblige anyone to use a system they do not understand or want. I would suggest making and using a UDDT yourself and then showing it to the most open-minded, influential members of the community to hopefully interest them, so the system can expand through the community gradually.

I invite you to have a look at my blog to see a variety of practical, low-cost models of UDDTs. For example, this one costs essentially nothing and only requires rescuing a few selected bits of plastic from the trash:
inodoroseco.blogspot.com/2013/10/a-free-...ist-uddt-part-1.html
inodoroseco.blogspot.com/2013/10/a-free-...ist-uddt-part-2.html

I agree with Elisabeth that it is good to collect feces in interchangeable containers, so more people can use the UDDT. Nonetheless, for various reasons the goal should be for each family to have their own toilet, so people do not have to wait in long lines, it is clear who needs to clean it, and people already have close contact with their family members.

Feces can be stored in woven, polypropylene sacks and, if there is nowhere else to store them, they can be buried in the ground (for lets say 2 years in the temperate zone).

Perforated hoses are a great option for distributing urine in the soil, as Cecile mentioned. And the portable urinals of the Minimalist UDDT mentioned above, permit easy dilution with greywater and then it can be dosed appropriately on the soil in the agricultural fields. Urine could potentially be sold or traded to the farmers for use as fertilizer.

Another great option is to build simple ArborLoos, like this one:
inodoroseco.blogspot.com/2012/08/scroll-...nglish-en-abril.html
This may also allow for anal washing with water, if that is what these people prefer.

Please let us know more about this case, including maybe some photos. Do these people prefer to wash or wipe? Squat or sit? How long are they likely to be there? What crops are grown in the nearby agricultural fields?

How else can we help? Please do not hesitate to ask more questions.

Best wishes,
Chris Canaday

Conservation Biologist and EcoSan Promoter
Omaere Ethnobotanical Park
Puyo, Pastaza, Ecuador, South America
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  • cecile
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Re: Dry toilets for refugees in Lebanon

Hi again,

About the lenght of use in festival, yes it is just a couple of days, but in many places (France, Australia, Canada), dry toilets are installed permanently in places far from networks but with high use such as touristic places.
I have had this kind of toilets and I have seen them in use in public places and there was no problem with flies. You can see pictures of the fly trap here : (pictures 7, 8 and 10). it is a natural light trap. There is an inverted cone inside a PVC pipe (on one side) and glass window on the the other side. The flies are attracted by the light and come inside but cannot get out. They fall dead in the bag underneath.

About the lack of water : if you decide to convey faeces from one place to another the transport is a risky step during which and after which you need to observe good hygiene practices and you need to take time to train people on these practices. In my view the conditions in a refugee camp and in emergency are not adapted to this, unless as you point out, it is a camp that is intended to be there for a long time.

@ Chris Canaday. I think the capacity building should be really done at the level of the emergency organisations (and there is a dynamic in this sense with the German Wash network who is organising training on sanitation in emergencies) so that ecological sanitation solutions become mainstream in emergencies and that emergency aid workers are able to provide operational toilets that protect the health and the environement. For people however, in emergency situations I am afraid there is not much space for long term education or interest in this topic...

Cécile Laborderie
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  • Neige
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Re: Dry toilets for refugees in Lebanon

Dear all,

Thank you very much for your recommendations and advices.

The NGO I work with, Social Humanitarian and Economical Intervention for Local Development (SHEILD ) is based in Tyre, and active in the South of Lebanon. SHEILD was part of Intersos, and became independent during the 2006 war.
We are working on emergencies, since 2011 related to the Syrian crisis. Our fields of action are mainly registration of refugees to the UNHCR, distribution of food/non-food items, education programmes and recreational activities for children and youth, etc.
In parallel, Sheild is also working on development programs, such as rehabilitation of the prisons, assistance to detainee’s families, enhancing access to justice, improving the administration of justice courts, but also livelihood programs, especially delivering vocational trainings and entrepreneurship trainings.

The problem with the toilets that are already in place is that they are conceived to use water but 1/ due to the lack of water, people use them without water 2/ there is no wastewater treatment system in Lebanon in general), and excrements are usually thrown in the sea. 3/ those toilets are spilled over, and since they are very close to refugee tents, it is a catastrophe especially when it rains.

This is why I would like to use the infrastructure of those toilets and transform them into urine diverting dry toilets, basically by elevating them and putting removable containers.

Concerning the cleansing, is it possible to make a hole inside the toilet, on the side of the squatting pan to evacuate water? So it wouldn’t go inside the urine/faeces holes.

I attached some pictures so you can have a better idea.






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  • lvolat
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Re: Dry toilets for refugees in Lebanon

Hello Niege,

I am on my last day here in Lebanon and unfortunately just seeing this message. We looking for a location and an organization with whom to pilot a unisex urinal in Lebanon that we have designed for emergency sanitation systems. The urinals are waiting to be used! We have a potential partnership with AUB to reuse the urine with some reforestation projects that are happening through LRI.

Our website is: www.theurinalproject.org
Please get in touch if you think this would be interesting for your situation.

Kind regards,
Lillian
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