Ensuring access to adequate quantities and quality of water is essential for the control of waterborne diseases in refugee/internally displaced persons (IDP) camps. Centralized batch chlorination remains one of the most widely used approaches for emergency water treatment due to its low cost, relative ease of use, and residual protection. Humanitarian organizations have developed guidelines stipulating targets for free residual chlorine (FRC) at camp water distribution points on the assumption that some chlorine residual will remain to protect the water against recontamination until consumed. These guidelines however are based on conventions stated in the WHO Guidelines for Drinking-water Quality (GDWQ) and derive from experience with municipal piped-water systems—i.e., from fundamentally different conditions than those encountered in refugee/IDP camps. As the CDC observes, the GDWQ targets are only appropriate when users drink water directly from the flowing taps of a piped system. These FRC levels are unlikely to provide sufficient protection when water is collected at the tapstand into containers, transported through the camp environment to shelters, and then stored for 24 hours or more before being consumed, especially in camp settings where environmental hygiene may be poor. Reports of water recontamination and associated public health impacts in both emergency and non-emergency settings abound in the literature. There is an urgent need to develop guidelines for emergency water treatment that are grounded in actual evidence from the field and can therefore reliably deliver safe water for beneficiary populations at the point of consumption.
This project will address this critical knowledge gap by launching rigorous observational studies in refugee camps in diverse climactic and environmental settings around the world. The project will investigate post-distribution chlorine decay—a first in any setting—in refugee/IDP camps in order to promulgate evidence-based targets for centralized batch chlorination. In addition, the project will also investigate factors that protect or compromise the safe water chain to help inform hygiene promotion efforts during emergencies.
The outcomes of this project will inform humanitarian guidelines for emergency water treatment, enabling humanitarian agencies to better protect drinking water from the point of distribution to the point of consumption in the refugee/IDP camp setting. This will help combat the spread of waterborne diseases among vulnerable displaced populations.
This final report outlines the project's key activities and outputs, and includes information on dissemination strategies and partnership developmentView
Academic-humanitarian collaborations that mobilize rigorous scientific research can improve the effectiveness of aid efforts.View
In 2013, the Maban County refugee camps in South Sudan faced major outbreaks of Hepatitis E. Mortality levels were high, and distressingly, it was pregnant women who were most vulnerable.View
One of the gaps we face with current emergency water treatment guidelines is that they are framed as universal treatment rules and do not account for local temperature or seasonal specificities. As we expanded the study to other refugee camps around the world, we wanted to also understand how local climate affects chlorine decay so that the new guidelines we develop are appropriate for specific climatic settings.View
Current emergency water treatment guidelines stipulate what free residual chlorine (FRC) levels should be at water distribution points in refugee/IDP camps in order to protect water from microbiological contamination. The problem however is that the current guidelines are not based on any field evidence, instead deriving from conventions meant for municipal piped water systems. Field experience demonstrates that these guidelines fail to reliably protect water supplies in emergency settings.View
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