After a disaster, outbreaks of cholera and other diseases often plague suffering communities due to the absence of proper water sanitation. Natural disasters and war can destroy toilets and sanitary systems, and when refugees flee their homes, they often move to camps without adequate sanitation. However, Damir Brdjanovic and a group of Netherland scientists at UNESCO’s Institute for Water Education have developed an emergency Sanitation Operation System to try to alleviate this problem.
Though the eSOS is currently only an experimental prototype, it is set to be tested in September in a refugee camp in the Philippines. The development of this smart toilet was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s SaniUP project, whose goal is “stimulating local innovation on sanitation for the urban poor in Sub-Saharan Africa and South East Asia.” The toilet was developed in collaboration with FLEX/The INNOVATIONLAB and SYSTECH.
The eSOS includes a series of techniques to provide sanitation: the smart toilet itself, a “smart transport” system, a way to dislodge the toilets, the treatment of feces and urine, “the safe disposal of materials, like dry sludge, which is pathogen free” and the development of clean water from urine that can be reused in the system.
New membrane bio-reactor technology can turn urine into water that can be used for toilets, irrigation and horticulture.
The smart toilet system is lightweight, which makes it easier to transport, and it has a set of tools that provide information to officials about the community. It includes an S.O.S. button, “an energy supply unit, a GPS sensor, and a monitor that keeps track of waste accumulation.” The information is send to an emergency coordination center to help officials determine what aid needs to be sent.
Testing in the Philippines will be supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation and the Asian Development Bank. Dr. Fiona Zakaria, a fellow at UNESCO-IHE, will carry out the testing with relief agencies.
With the development of new technology, scientists may be able to use inventions like the eSOS to provide crucial relief and disease prevention to threatened communities.
– Kimmi Ligh