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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.

Latest Updates

Evidence-based FRC targets for centralised chlorination in emergencies

31 May 2017

Current emergency water treatment guidelines stipulate free residual chlorine (FRC) levels to protect water at refugee camps from microbiological contamination. However current guidelines are not based on field evidence, and fail to reliably protect water supplies in emergency settings.


Temperature and seasonal effects from chlorine decay: findings from Jordan

13 Sept 2016

Our findings from Azraq Camp, Jordan evidence why it is so important that emergency water treatment guidelines account for local temperature or seasonal weather changes.


Welcome to Sudan: how the research began

15 Apr 2016

In 2013, the Maban County refugee camps in South Sudan faced major outbreaks of Hepatitis E, leading MSF ask two important questions to find out what happened and why.


Stanford Social Innovation Review: How research universities can help the refugee crisis

03 Apr 2016

Academic-humanitarian collaborations that mobilize rigorous scientific research can improve the effectiveness of aid efforts.


Final report - outcomes and impact

31 Oct 2015

This final report outlines the project's key activities and outputs, and includes information on dissemination strategies and partnership development


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