Faecal sludge management in a refugee camp is a public health issue
Aline Georges returns from her first mission with Première Urgence Internationale. She tells us how faecal sludge management is a public health issue within the Minawao refugee camp in Cameroon.
WHAT IS FAECAL SLUDGE MANAGEMENT?
The construction of latrines is deemed a high priority activity within a refugee camp. However, sometimes there may not be sufficient space to create new ones when existing ones become full. In Minawao, the characteristics of the soil mean that they need to be emptied regularly. It’s therefore been necessary to implement a process for draining the latrines and disposing of this liquid waste. This is what we call faecal sludge management. For several months, I was involved in the development of a waste management strategy (solid and liquid) at the Minawao camp in Cameroon. Its culmination will be the creation of a site to manage the latter including the sorting of domestic waste (solid), a faecal sludge treatment facility and a co-composting unit.
The management of faecal sludge, and more widely waste, is a public health issue. In order to prevent the spread of disease or soil contamination, it is vital to implement drainage/collection, treatment and disposal processes, or ideally the recovery of such waste.
SLUDGE MANAGEMENT, FROM DRAINAGE TO RECOVERY
Faecal sludge management is often limited by necessity to disposal. However, at Minawao, we decided to adopt an innovative approach. The goal, beyond waste treatment, will be to recycle the waste into compost.
This project demanded awareness raising and training within local communities. It’s not always easy to get people to accept the use of compost which is made from human excreta. However, this allows for waste to be recycled and potentially, in the long run, the proceeds of the sale of the compost to be used to partially recover the costs of waste management. Communities have been and will be involved in all stages of the process, from development to management.
ONE GOAL: SUSTAINABILITY
Waste management is also an issue of cohesion and development. We embarked upon a process of support and participation in the neighbouring commune of Mokolo. This process, often referred to as a “phased” approach, aims in the long term to delegate the complete management of camp clean-up activities to them. Finally, the implementation strategy involves both the host and refugee community on various levels through income-generating activities. By involving local authorities, as well as host and refugee communities in waste management, we are trying establish a sustainable system. Why? So that communities regain their autonomy. It’s one of the things that I’m most proud of about this project.
Première Urgence Internationale’s dedicated sanitation team in Minawao did a fantastic job within the camp and were so supportive. Thanks to a thorough analysis, we were able to adapt the technology (technical level / reasonable maintenance costs) to the local conditions. This is essential for ensuring sustainability and has been highly successful!