Shaping the future: Our strategy for research and innovation in humanitarian response.

A global organisation that finds solutions to complex humanitarian problems through research and innovation..
Our purpose is clear: we work in partnership with a global community of humanitarian actors, researchers and innovators to improve the quality of humanitarian action and deliver better outcomes for people affected by crises.
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IOM decentralized wastewater treatment system (DEWATS) - Camp 12, Kutupalong Mega-Camp, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.
Thermal validation tests on Veolia Foundation pasteurization skid - France, December 2023


In highly congested settings, such as the Rohingya camps, WASH actors face challenges to deliver faecal sludge treatment processes which provide an effective removal of pathogens. The challenges are largely due to limitation of space, which constrains the ability to include appropriate, safe and sustainable (cost efficient) aerobic processes in the treatment train. While anaerobic processes are fundamentally designed to remove organic loads, removal of pathogens is also achieved, although not to the degree to comply with national and international standards. Increasing the performance of pathogen removal in anaerobic processes could enable a less demanding aerobic steps or the use of strictly anaerobic trains of treatment. Moreover, the treated effluent would lead to a reduction in pathogens, enabling the safe reuse of water for irrigation purposes within the camp.


The project will utilize the existing IOM designed Decentralized Wastewater Treatment System (IOM DEWATS). The treatment mechanism works by solids/liquid separation through settlement and filtration as well as some digestion of solids under anaerobic conditions. All material used in this system is locally available, can be constructed in a short period with training, and one system can serve 5,170 users with minimal land required.

This project aims to improve the efficiency of IOM’s DEWATS system by retrofitting it with a final effluent pasteurization treatment process (solar heating system), providing evidence for replication in various contexts. In collaboration with our partners, the project will adapt their innovative pasteurization skid to utilize solar energy for pathogen inactivation. The Veolia Foundation will work closely with IOM to design a new solar power heating system tailored to the existing DEWATS design.

This entirely anaerobic solution can be adapted to densely populated humanitarian contexts with improved results in comparison to aerobic systems which are often less accepted by the host community and affected population. This kind of decentralized system simplifies negotiation with authorities who are often reluctant to allocate large areas of land for a centralized system, and which also requires high investment and skilled operation.


The research, field testing, and prototyping efforts are expected to yield significant results. We anticipate producing comprehensive materials and outputs that will contribute to the advancement of our project. These outcomes include:

  1. Enhanced Community Awareness: Beneficiaries will be well-informed about treatment facility improvements, fostering community engagement and support.
  2. Effective Collaboration: Collaborative efforts with the Health Sector, government stakeholders, and the WASH Sector will lead to defined common objectives and a streamlined approach.
  3. Informed Decision-Making: A baseline report will provide valuable insights into the impact of increased temperatures in anaerobic treatment systems on pathogen inactivation.
  4. Solar Integration: Retrofitting DEWATS with a solar heating system will enhance sustainability, and energy efficiency.
  5. Optimized pasteurization conditions: Defining research framework for finding optimal temperature and retention time for deactivation of specific pathogens.
  6. Technical Guidance: Adapted technical guidance and SOPs will ensure efficient operation, maintenance, and installation of the solar heating system.
  7. Institutional Support: Local-level presentations will garner institutional backing for scalable and replicable solutions.
  8. Global Reach: Dissemination at regional and global levels, including workshops and participation in the WASH cluster forum, will maximize the project’s impact through knowledge sharing.


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