eSOS: oh boy! here we go again... - Smart eSOS toilet for emergencies (emergency Sanitation Operation System)

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  • isis
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eSOS: oh boy! here we go again... - Smart eSOS toilet for emergencies (emergency Sanitation Operation System)

There is a new article in the Journal of WASH for Development ( www.iwaponline.com/washdev/up/washdev2014098.htm ) on emergency sanitation. Unfortunately, I do not have access to it, but I do remember seeing this project being presented in the IWA Nairobi Development Conference in 2013. All I can say is that reaction from the audience was anything but convincing.
I am all for innovation, but sometimes I think academics lack some field experience to better ground their ideas to the real world (the fact that it was funded by the B&MGF is a mere coincidence).
Basically, from what I remember this system designs out the human factor in delivering emergency sanitation. Everything is GPS controlled and managed from a distance; not leaving much scope for interactions with users (and operators). I can't remember how the human waste was supposed to be treated. Maybe the authors can enlighten us and give us an update on this project...
Apparently, this is being tested in the Philippines.

Isis (yes, this is an actual name and it is not what you are thinking)
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Re: eSOS: oh boy! here we go again... (Smart eSOS toilet for emergencies, UNESCO-IHE Delft)

Yes, I also remember that presentation at the Nairobi Development Congress and the discussion afterwards. I was also a bit sceptical, it just seemed a bit too high tech to work in a real emergency (= my personal opinion). But I have been meaning to ask Fiona Zakarias about it (she is doing her PhD on it) so perhaps now is a good time.

There is a bit more information here:
www.unesco-ihe.org/news/smart-esos-toilet-emergencies

The larger project under which this PhD work is funded was also mentioned here on the forum:
forum.susana.org/forum/categories/97-ena...n-africa-and-se-asia

I will drop Fiona a note and ask her if she could tell us a bit more about this trial in the Philippines.

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Elisabeth

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Re: eSOS: oh boy! here we go again... - Smart eSOS toilet for emergencies (emergency Sanitation Operation System)

My first reaction was also that this it too "high tech" to work, but emergencies can be a quite different setting from usual sanitation projects in informal settlements or the like.

Think for example of those camps in the middle of the Jordanian desert housing Syrian refugees. They are very organized (probably to a point where it is not very nice to live there anymore...), risk of theft is low, the UN even operates Supermarkets there (and the refugees pay with a special credit card) etc.

An automated system like described might be a good way of monitoring and for quality ensurance when emptying and cleaning is outsourced to a 3rd party in such camps.

So yes it is probably a niche use-case, but one that could be quite useful under such and somewhat similar circumstances.

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Re: eSOS: oh boy! here we go again... - Smart eSOS toilet for emergencies (emergency Sanitation Operation System)

JKMakowka,
What do you mean by a camp that is so organised "to a point where it is not nice to live there anymore"? (did I miss something?)
Anyhow, perhaps it work in such a niche scenario... but I was under the impression that B&MGF projects were about scaling-up etc. (maybe I am also missing something here)

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Re: eSOS: oh boy! here we go again... - Smart eSOS toilet for emergencies (emergency Sanitation Operation System)

According to what I have heard these camps are often quite barren, in one article I read, they quoted inhabitants saying that they wanted to get in because it is really safe but after a few weeks they preferred to leave again... something I can understand after seeing the picture of checker style prefab-huts somewhere out in the nowhere of the desert.

You might have a point about the overall program's idea, but I think one of the stronger points of the Gates Foundation's programs is that they usually also give some seed money to the outliers (because you never know if an idea might not turn out much more appropriate than initially thought).

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Re: eSOS: oh boy! here we go again... - Smart eSOS toilet for emergencies (emergency Sanitation Operation System)

Well, not sure what article you are talking about... but refugees typically don't shop around for the best camps that are aesthetically pleasing. This would almost seem to imply that the camp was not warranted in the first place. From what I have seen, they leave for other reasons (e.g. end of crisis, camp closes down, etc.). [edit: sorry, I guess I was going slightly off topic]
B&MGF does give seed money in some of their programmes, but in others they fund large (sometimes very large) grants. An example of the latter is the Aquatest that has not really lived up to the hype that surrounded it. However, in either case, scaling up is an important factor in their granting programme. I am not sure under which programme eSOS is funded.

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Re: eSOS: oh boy! here we go again... - Smart eSOS toilet for emergencies (emergency Sanitation Operation System)

I have e-mailed Fiona Zakaria about this discussion thread, as she is the PhD student and author behind the paper that we discussed in this thread.

She replied by e-mail and gave permission that I copy this to the forum for her:

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22 Feb 2015

Dear Elisabeth,

I am sorry for delays in responding. I am currently in Tacloban, Philippines for the eSOS field testing.
I have just arrived few days ago and currently trying to arrange logistics and other related things to get the toilet to the location.

I would love to be active in the forum, but I am afraid I have to restrain the urge to do that now.
Mainly because I have no new information to share at the time being.

I hope you'd understand. My greetings to everyone participated in the discussion about eSOS toilet. I am grateful for all the interests they have given.


May I draw your attention to my recently published paper? It is not about eSOS toilet, but it is relevant to some of the discussion when ppl are questioning about the decision making process when planning for emergency sanitation.
authors.elsevier.com/a/1QU-oB8ccTwLM

Decision support system for the provision of emergency sanitation

Highlights
• We developed a DSS to select and plan for faecal sludge management in emergencies
• The DSS is useful for planners to make decisions in relatively short time
• The DSS is designed as a computer-based program that can easily be modified
• The DSS is user-friendly and can be operated offline
• Preliminary validation of the DSS shows that it can provide realistic results

Abstract

Proper provision of sanitation in emergencies is considered a life-saving intervention. Without access to sanitation, refugees at emergency camps are at a high risk of contracting diseases. Even the most knowledgeable relief agencies have experienced difficulties providing sanitation alternatives in such challenging scenarios. This study developed a computer-based decision support system (DSS) to plan a sanitation response in emergencies. The sanitation alternatives suggested by the DSS are based on a sanitation chain concept that considers different steps in the faecal sludge management, from the toilet or latrine to the safe disposal of faecal matters. The DSS first screens individual sanitation technologies using the user's given input. Remaining sanitation options are then built into a feasible sanitation chain. Subsequently, each technology in the chain is evaluated on a scoring system. Different sanitation chains can later be ranked based on the total evaluation scores. The DSS addresses several deficiencies encountered in the provision of sanitation in emergencies including: the application of standard practices and intuition, the omission of site specific conditions, the limited knowledge exhibited by emergency planners, and the provision of sanitation focused exclusively on the collection step (i.e., just the provision of toilets).


Regards,
Fiona Zakaria

PhD Research Fellow
UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education
Department of Environmental Engineering and Water Technology
Westvest 7, 2611 AX Delft, The Netherlands
Web: www.unesco-ihe.org

+++++++++++++++

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