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This report explores the problem of solid waste disposal in two humanitarian settings to identify innovation opportunities using a new methodology.

Our 2021 Gaps in WASH in Humanitarian Response: 2021 Update – Elrha reveals the most pressing WASH challenges facing communities affected by crises worldwide. This gap analysis is informed by the most comprehensive global WASH data collection of its kind. It included more than 1,700 people affected by crisis sharing their views and experiences along with almost 700 in-country WASH practitioners. This process identified over 6,000 gaps in WASH humanitarian response. Further analysis identified the four key gaps most mentioned by respondents – need for water supply and provision, need for sanitation access and coverage, weak hygiene practices and knowledge and improper solid waste disposal.

The purpose of Innovation Opportunities in Solid Waste Disposal in Humanitarian Settings report is to explore how innovation may help address the challenge of improper solid waste disposal. Recognising that this is a broad gap the research team developed a 6-step methodology for exploring problems to identify innovation opportunities. Access to a healthy sustainable environment has been recognised as a universal right. And yet, neglect and failures in solid waste management (SWM) are common and repeated; hence, there is a need to search for solutions through innovation.

The research team explored the problem of improper solid waste disposal in two settings – Rwamwanja Refugee Settlement, Uganda and Doolow Internally Displaced Person (IDP) Camp, Somalia. The report outlines the problems, causes and impacts of poor solid waste disposal in these settings and five innovation opportunities that could contribute to improving the situation. For each of these five broad opportunities more specific examples of how innovators or innovation funders could leverage the opportunity are provided:

  1. Build a zero-waste vision for humanitarian settings
  2. Safe and accessible disposal sites
  3. Sustainable collaboration models for humanitarian agencies and local authorities
  4. Support potential entrepreneurs to turn waste into a resource
  5. Identify and reduce high-impact waste resources

“Access to a healthy sustainable environment has been recognised as a universal right. And yet, neglect and failures in solid waste management are common and repeated; hence, there is a need to search for solutions through innovation.”

In creating this report, specific problems within solid waste disposal and management have been identified that the innovation opportunities highlighted could address. There is potential to build on this work in several ways:

  • The methodology developed to identify innovation opportunities could be implemented in other settings, WASH gaps and challenges
  • The problems explored could contribute to wider sectoral efforts to map problems within the SWM gap
  • Innovation funders could open up identified opportunities to support further innovation in the SWM space by launching funding calls that ask innovators to respond to the challenges identified
  • Innovators in humanitarian settings with similar problem patterns to the two contexts explored in this report could use this information to identify potential targets for innovation in their contexts that would benefit from their time, attention, skills and resources

This innovation opportunities report and the methodology were prepared for Elrha by UrbanEmerge, FLUSH and Science Practice.

Related Events

Exploring Innovation Opportunities in Solid Waste Disposal (12 October)

12 October 2022, 14:00 - 14:50 BST Webinar

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