Solid waste and faecal sludge management in situations of rapid, mass displacement

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Helpdesk Query:

What lessons and evidence is there from situations of rapid, mass displacement into sites and/or camps with limited space and limited physical access options for solid waste and faecal sludge management?

Summary:

Solid waste and faecal sludge management in situations of rapid mass displacement are important to public health and providing for a better environment. Despite this, both have been neglected in WASH programmes, which tend to have a focus on water. However increasing efforts are being made to find solutions to challenges in solid waste and faecal sludge management in difficult circumstances in humanitarian emergencies.

A recent systematic review looking at short term water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) interventions in emergency response found that ‘[d]espite regular use, emergency WASH strategies have a limited evidence-base’ and as delivering assistance has generally been
prioritised over research, much of the available literature is about ‘best practice’ rather than ‘evidence based’ programming (Yates et al, 2017, p. i). As a result ‘evidence remains low and lacking’ (Yates et al, 2017, p. iii). An analysis of emergency WASH looking for gaps and spaces for innovation found that ‘sanitation issues were identified as the major area with gaps and potential for innovation’ (Bastable & Russell, 2013, p. ii). Both solid waste and faecal sludge management fall under sanitation within WASH. Key gaps are around ‘excreta disposal issues such as latrines in areas where pits cannot be dug, desludging latrines, no-toilet options and the final treatment or disposal of the sewage’ (Bastable & Russell, 2013, p. iii).

Most of the available literature uncovered by this rapid review is grey literature, offering guidance on solid waste and faecal sludge management, rather than peer reviewed papers. It is not always clear what evidence the guidance papers used in this rapid review are based on. However, they have been written and produced by people and organisations who have worked extensively on WASH in emergencies.

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