Safe water is essential for preventing the spread of waterborne diseases in refugee and IDP camps, where these diseases are among the leading causes of morbidity and mortality. Chlorination is the most widely used water treatment method in humanitarian response globally because it importantly offers residual protection against recontamination.
Current global guidelines (such as Sphere) for water chlorination, however, are not based on evidence from humanitarian field settings and fail to account for the decay in chlorine residual that occurs after water is collected from the distribution point, taken home, and stored before use. This post-distribution chlorine decay is highly dependent on site-specific factors, so a one-size-fits-all universal chlorination target is inadequate for ensuring drinking water safety across the wide range of settings encountered globally. Several studies have linked the widespread recontamination of drinking water after distribution to the spread of waterborne diseases in camp populations.
We created the Safe Water Optimization Tool (SWOT), a web-based platform that generates site-specific and evidence-based water chlorination targets, to ensure water remains safe to drink all the way to the point of consumption. The SWOT uses machine-learning and numerical modelling to generate insight from water quality monitoring data already routinely collected in refugee and IDP camps. We pilot-tested the SWOT in the Cox’s Bazar refugee camps in Bangladesh in 2019 and found that it produced substantive improvements in household water safety compared to the status quo chlorination guidelines.
In this project, we aim to build evidence that will support the scaling of the SWOT across the global humanitarian sector. Using a mixed-methods approach, we will:
This project will produce an improved SWOT web tool and a suite of evidence-based resources to support its global scale-up, including:
These outputs will take the form of research publications, conference presentations, technical memoranda, case studies, training webinars, policy briefs, and other resources to support the scaling of the SWOT with diverse user groups in the humanitarian sector.
The project team is aiming to turn the SWOT prototype into a fully-fledged product, and has identified three important areas of development and testing to ensure the SWOT is ready for widespread adoption in the sector.View
The project has received further funding from the WASH Evidence challenge to continue building their evidence base.
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.View
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.View
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.View
Academic-humanitarian collaborations that mobilize rigorous scientific research can improve the effectiveness of aid efforts.View
This final report outlines the project's key activities and outputs, and includes information on dissemination strategies and partnership developmentView
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