User-centred sanitation design in rapid-onset emergencies | humanitarian aid



How might we use user-centred principles and tools to design child-friendly sanitation facilities in rapid-onset emergencies?


The challenge

In 2017, the Humanitarian Innovation Fund (HIF) launched a challenge to evaluate the impact of user-centred engagement on the design and use of sanitation facilities in emergency situations. We were selected as one of three teams to develop an engagement approach and to test it in two rapid-onset emergencies.

The approach

We have partnered with Save the Children UK (SCUK) to deliver two pilot projects in Bangladesh and Iraq that focus on the design of child-friendly sanitation facilities. In our pilots, we will use interactive surveys and co-creation sessions to engage with children aged 5-12 and their caregivers in displacement camps. The data collected and insights gained from these methods will directly inform sanitation design decisions and work to deliver more child-friendly latrines. We will also iterate and develop our approach based on the outcomes of the pilots. 

The solution

The outcome will be a methodology that can be applied in rapid-onset emergencies to inform the design of latrines and sanitation facilities that are usable and safe for both adults and children. We will publish our methodology in a summary report to  support the development of best practices around the impact user-centred principles and tools have on sanitation provision and use.

Eclipse has been selected as one of three teams to receive a grant from the Humanitarian Innovation Fund (HIF). The grant is part of HIF’s initiative to test innovative community engagement approaches that can be used in rapid-onset emergencies to inform sanitation decisions. We have partnered with Save the Children UK to deliver two pilot projects that focus on designing child-friendly sanitation facilities through user-centred engagement.

Open defecation of children in refugee camps brings significant health risks to the camp population. Additionally, up to 50% of refugee populations around the world are children. Therefore, user-centred child-friendly sanitation facilities have the potential to significantly impact the health of displaced populations. Currently, the influence of people’s needs on the design of sanitation facilities is minimal and assessment of a situation after a rapid-onset emergency is of a quantitative nature.

Our two pilot projects will engage children aged 5-12 and their caregivers, in displacement camps in Bangladesh and Iraq, through iterative, user-centred engagement. Over 12 weeks, we will capture children and caregiver preferences through interactive surveys and design ideas for improvement during a community co-creation session.     

Digital engagement I
Trained individuals from the camp population will conduct the first survey with children
and carers in their camp households. The survey will capture sanitation pain points and
preferences through interactive illustrations of sanitation designs, smiley face scales
and closed-questions. The survey will allow us to collect data rapidly, integrate engagement
into existing field team protocols and technology, and produce data reports that Water,
Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) teams can easily interpret and use to inform the next stage
of engagement and decision-making. 

Community co-creation session
After the first interactive survey, The WASH team and local facilitators will run a co-creation
session with children and caregivers. Data captured in Digital Engagement I will inform
session activities to combine quick data collection with depth of understanding. Session activities
such as 5Whys, H-Assessments and dot voting will be used to explore pain points in more depth,
to capture current sanitation behaviours and to develop and rank potential improvements to
sanitation designs. The session will also enable interaction with WASH engineers and other
decision-makers so that community insights and input can directly influence sanitation design
alterations, from minor structural changes to new constructions.

Digital engagement II
Trained individuals will conduct a second interactive survey with children and carers in their
camp households.The survey will focus on measuring satisfaction with the alterations
and collect any other feedback. The output of this engagement will inform any final updates
to sanitation facilities. 
We will conduct both pilot projects by the end of 2018 and publish a summary report of the things
that worked, the challenges and impact of our engagement approach. This alongside a toolbox
of our approach will help to build an evidence base around the use and value of user-centred engagement
in sanitation design for rapid-onset emergencies.

Follow us on Twitter to track our progress!


This project is supported by Erha's Humanitarian Innovation Fund programme, a grant making facility supporting organisations and individuals to identify, nurture and share innovative and scalable solutions to the most pressing challenges facing effective humanitarian assistance. The HIF is funded by aid from the UK Government and the Swedish Development Agency (SIDA). Visit for more information about Elrha's work to improve humanitarian outcomes through research, innovation and partnership.

hif_logo_FOR ONLINE USE.png