The Optimist Citizen

A waterless toilet by a team at MIT to achieve healthy sanitary conditions for millions for refugees

Today, most of the Middle Eastern strata is in a deadly gamut of war and death. And with this incessant increase of war, there is a wide increase in the number of people affected by it. Many Middle Eastern and European countries are facing an exponential rise of refugees everyday on their doorsteps. A temporary solution for this crisis is in the form of numerable refugee camps. But, the refugees as if not already troubled, are dealing with one of the most humiliating realities of these camps: going to the bathroom. Shocking as it may sound, but it is sadly the truth. At camps like Zaatari in Jordan, which is the 2nd largest refugee camp housing 80,000 to 100,000 Syrian refugees, there is just one toilet for every 50 individuals. Along with this, there’s an average 2km walk each way and a one hour wait, only to receive unsanitary facilities. The problem is daunting, especially, for young girls and women who are at a risk of being attacked if they use the communal toilets at night. Due to this fear most of them simply try not to go and risk contracting dangerous urinary tract infections. Thus, Syrian refugees are facing a life-threatening hazard, on a regular basis, in their makeshift settlements, where diseases can easily spread and medical service is a far cry.

But now an idea, which aims at eliminating this dire threat of poor sanitation, seems to be propping up. Change: Water Labs, an exceptional spinout of MIT, plans to bring dignified sanitation to these people by developing compact, evaporative toilet for homes which would not require any power or plumbing. The innovation is a low cost, standalone solution for informal housing areas. The toilet has a polymer material that functions as a sponge, soaking up liquid water, released as water vapour in the air; it also contains residue waste, preventing pollution. Residue waste can be collected once or twice per month. The team includes, Diana Yousef, a research associate with MIT’s D-labs, Huda Elasaad, a visiting scholar with MIT’s D-labs; Conor Smith MBA’ 18; and Yongji Wang, PhD students in the MIT Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “We’ll build our first prototype, using a pilot partner in the Middle East, the project could be transforming for refugees,” said co-founder Diana Yousef to MIT News.

“It’s fast, it can absorb 10-20 l per sq meter per day, it’s cheap and it costs about $0.04 a sq meter.” Described, co-founder Diana Yousef. “This way you’re shrinking the crap to one-tenth of its volume, which will provide complete hygienic containment and that’s way we call it shrink- wrap for carp,” she added. For Change: Water Labs’ team, refugee camps are hopefully just the beginning. “Safe sanitation for all is a motto and mission of the organization, Smith said to MIT News. “Initially, we’re focusing on refugee camps like Zaatari, where lack of affordable toilets has turned these camps into massive cesspool and beyond these camps, there’s incredible potential to apply this solution to more than a billion non-sewer households around the world.”, she added.

Alveena Ahmed | TOC

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