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Biggest-ever waste treatment plant in a refugee camp is ‘step forward’ for safer human waste disposal in emergencies

Author: Kelsey-Rae Taylor, Oxfam New Zealand
 
 
Oxfam has opened the largest human waste treatment plant ever built in a refugee camp, in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. The industrial-scale plant, funded by the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, can process the waste of 150,000 people – a population bigger than Tauranga. 
Being able to treat large volumes of faecal waste on site, rather than having to transport it elsewhere, is a big step forward in how to safely and sustainably dispose of such waste in emergencies. 
 
Last year more than 200,000 cases of acute diarrhoea were reported in the Rohingya camps, as well as respiratory infections and skin diseases like scabies – all related to poor sanitation and hygiene. 
 
Over seven months, Oxfam engineers and Rohingya refugees have built the massive system which has been specially designed for the steep, hilly terrain and to have the cheapest possible operation and maintenance costs. 
 
A suitable site was provided by the Government of Bangladesh and the project was delivered in collaboration with the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner's Office in Cox’s Bazar.   
  
Oxfam water and sanitation engineer Salahuddin Ahmmed said: “Safe sanitation is vital to prevent outbreaks of disease but disposing safely of human waste in the world’s biggest refugee camp is a major challenge. This ecological plant will help to keep refugees healthy by treating 40 cubic meters of waste a day – a huge amount. The initial investment is well worth it because the plant is cheap and easy to run and could last for 20 years – benefitting local communities when this emergency is over. We expect to replicate this model in future crises.” 
 
In emergencies, the most common method of waste disposal is to use tankers to suck out the sewage from latrines and take it away. But around 85 per cent of the world’s refugees are in developing countries, often lacking adequate sewage systems to deal with all this extra waste. Treating it on site reduces the risk that it will which end up being dumped in a field or polluting a local stream. 
 
The new, ecological plant, made up of treatment ponds and wetlands, is safe for people and the environment. It has multiple treatment stages to prevent contamination of local water sources and a high-density polyethylene liner and covered anaerobic unit to stop unpleasant odours escaping. 
 
The plant also produces biogas – Oxfam is exploring how to get this to refugee families to cook with. 
 
Aki is an 18-year-old Rohingya refugee who works as a community volunteer for Oxfam, talking to fellow refugees about good hygiene, handwashing, and keeping toilets clean. After a tour of the new plant, she said she had a better understanding of how her work is part of Oxfam’s wider efforts to stop outbreaks of disease. 
 
Aki said: “I didn’t know what happened to all the waste from the latrines. I’m happy that Oxfam has built this plant as it will help prevent the spread of diseases. Last year lots of people were sick with serious diarrhea. But we are seeing improvements. We can tell our community that this plant is doing something that will help for the future, and maybe also produce cooking gas. It’s great.” 
 
Close to a million Rohingya refugees living in Bangladesh still need food, water, shelter and other essential aid to survive. Oxfam is calling for more aid and resources to improve conditions beyond the basics and keep people safe. 
 
Oxfam is providing vital aid including clean water and food vouchers to Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, and has so far reached at least 266,000 people. 
 
Notes to editors: 
 
The plant was designed by a German organisation called BORDA - specialists in sanitation systems in developing countries. 
 
In 2018 there were more than 200,000 cases of acute diarrhoea reported in the Cox’s Bazar camps, according to the WHO and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. 
 
The UN calculates that 85 per cent of refugees are in developing countries. 
 
-ends-
 

In 2018, 43 people owned the same wealth as half the world – this year, 26 do.

In 2018, 43 people owned the same wealth as half the world – this year, 26 do.

A report released by Oxfam this week highlights that our current global economy is rewarding those at the top - while hundreds of millions of people living in poverty are getting poorer. Last year, the 3.8 billion people who make up the poorest half of the world saw their wealth decline by 11 percent while billionaires’ fortunes rose by almost the same amount. 
 
One of the main drivers of inequality is the failure of governments to clamp down on tax dodging by big businesses and wealthy individuals and ensure everyone is paying their fair share. Tax dodging by corporations and the rich is costing poor countries $170 billion a year. This means less funds for vital public services like healthcare and education, which are key to reducing inequality and helping people to build better lives for themselves. 
 

This just doesn't make sense

 
This human cost of inequality can no longer be ignored. Every day, 262 million children will not go to school and almost 10,000 people will die because they cannot access healthcare.
 
 
Nellie Kumambala, a secondary school teacher from Lumbadzi, Malawi tells us her experience of fighting inequality. “My father inspired my sisters and me to become teachers. I’ve taught at the community secondary school for my area for 19 years. Our children come from very poor families. Many walk long distances to get here. Many come with empty stomachs. We have a problem of too few textbooks, dilapidated classrooms and teaching materials. 
 
"Over the years, I have seen so many girls and boys who score highly despite coming from poor backgrounds. I remember Chimwemwe Gabisa – she was brilliant at mathematics, the best I have taught. She finished secondary school but could not proceed to college for lack of funds." 
 
The private schools in the city, for children from rich families, have very good facilities. It does not seem right that it is so much harder for children in a government school to be educated. I pay tax every month on my little salary. I don’t understand why the people that have everything are failing to pay their taxes. 
 
With more money a lot could be done at our school. We could provide students with breakfast. We could provide them with textbooks and basic necessities like school uniforms and exercise books. At least this would give them a better chance in life.”
 
Rising inequality is preventing us from beating poverty for good – but it doesn’t have to be this way. There is enough wealth in the world to provide everyone with a fair chance in life.
 
Dedicated teachers like Nellie are the lifeblood of great public services that benefit the poorest. Share her story to help fight inequality and beat poverty.
 
 

Billionaires’ wealth grows by €2.2billion/£1.9billion per day as half the world lives on €5/£5 per day

Almost half the world’s population live on less than €5/£5 per day while the wealth of the world’s billionaires increased by €2.2billion/£1.9billion per day in 2018 alone, reveals a new report from Oxfam today. 
 
 
The report – Public Good or Private Wealth? – highlights how the global economy rewards those at the top while people living in poverty get poorer. Last year, the 3.8 billion people who make up the poorest half of the world saw their wealth decline by 11 percent while billionaires’ fortunes rose by almost the same amount (12 percent). 
 
As political and business leaders gather at the World Economic Forum in Davos this week, Oxfam is calling on governments to address this rising inequality by tackling tax avoidance by corporates and wealthy individuals and providing quality, free universal public services that are key to reducing it. 
 
Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive, said: “Halving extreme poverty is one of our greatest global achievements over the last 30 years but this is being jeopardised by rising inequality. Our report shows how decades of progress in reducing global poverty has disturbingly slowed – the rate of reduction has halved since 2013 – with extreme poverty actually increasing in sub-Saharan Africa. 
“This is a direct result of inequality – the human cost of which can no longer be ignored – and is largely seen in a lack of access to quality public services. Tomorrow, as the elite convene in Davos, 262 million children will not go to school and almost 10,000 people will die because they cannot access healthcare.
 
“Tax avoidance by big businesses and wealthy individuals is depriving developing countries of US$170billion every year. By eliminating tax avoidance and agreeing a new set of rules to make the global tax system fairer, governments, including the Irish and UK governments, can ensure more money is spent on providing free universal public services that reduce inequality and enable people to thrive – and in many cases survive.”
 
Oxfam calls for the following actions to reduce the growing gap between the richest and the rest: 
 
All governments should deliver universal free healthcare, education and other essential public services 
To achieve this, everyone, including big businesses and wealthy individuals, need to pay their fair share of tax. This means ending tax avoidance and evasion by corporates and the wealthy. Ireland and the UK have an important role to play in this regard and needs to agree a new set of global rules and institutions to fundamentally redesign the tax system to make it fair, with developing countries having an equal seat at the table. These new rules would include increased transparency of multinational corporations (MNCs) tax affairs and implementing effective mechanisms to end profit shifting by MNCs at home and abroad. 
 
Clarken continued: “Unless our leaders at home and across the world act now to reduce inequality, the global goal agreed by world leaders to end extreme poverty by 2030 remains out of reach. But it doesn’t have to be this way – there is enough wealth in the world to provide everyone with a fair chance in life. This means working taps and toilets that don’t spread cholera and deadly disease; clinics with nurses, doctors, equipment and drugs; classrooms with teachers and supplies; a pension at the end of a hard-working life.”
 
 
ENDS
 
CONTACT: Spokespeople are available for interview. For more, please contact: Alice Dawson-Lyons at alice.dawsonlyons@oxfam.org or +353 (0) 83 198 1869
 
Notes to the editor: 
The report, methodology document explaining how Oxfam calculated the figures, and the data set is available on request.
Oxfam’s calculations are based on global wealth distribution data provided by the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Data book published in November 2018, which relate to the period June 2017-June 2018. The wealth of billionaires was calculated using the annual Forbes Billionaires list last published in March 2018. See the methodology for more details.
Every year, Oxfam’s calculations about how many people own the same wealth as half the world are based on data available at the time. Credit Suisse has improved and expanded its data set, which means we can recalculate our figures for previous years. We can now calculate that last year 43 people owned the same as half the world. This year it’s 26. The year before last it was 61. 
The World Bank report Poverty and Shared Prosperity 2018 found that global poverty declined on average 1 percentage point per year between 1990 and 2015, but only 0.6 percentage points per year between 2013 to 2015, and may be further slowing.
The UN estimates that tax avoidance by businesses costs developing countries $100bn a year.
Economist Gabriel Zucman estimates that the world’s poorest regions – Africa, Asia and Latin America – lose $70bn in annual revenue due to wealthy individuals’ use of tax havens.

Public good or private wealth?

Universal health, education and other public services reduce the gap between rich and poor, and between women and men. Fairer taxation of the wealthiest can help pay for them.

Our economy is broken, with hundreds of millions of people living in extreme poverty while huge rewards go to those at the very top.
 
The number of billionaires has doubled since the financial crisis and their fortunes grow by $2.5bn a day, yet the super-rich and corporations are paying lower rates of tax than they have in decades. The human costs – children without teachers, clinics without medicines – are huge. Piecemeal private services punish poor people and privilege elites. Women suffer the most, and are left to fill the gaps in public services with many hours of unpaid care.
 
We need to transform our economies to deliver universal health, education and other public services. To make this possible, the richest people and corporations should pay their fair share of tax. This will drive a dramatic reduction in the gap between rich and poor and between women and men.
 
Downloads (PDF): 
 
About this paper:
Author: Max Lawson, Man-Kwun Chan, Francesca Rhodes, Anam Parvez Butt, Anna Marriott, Ellen Ehmke, Didier Jacobs, Julie Seghers, Jaime Atienza, Rebecca Gowland
Post date: 21 January 2019

These five Oxfam innovations are changing the way people fight poverty

Author: Divya Amladi
 
Diaa', a Syrian refugee living in the Za'atari Camp, is a team supervisor in the Superadobe construction project that is bringing temperature-resistant homes to the camp. Photo: Nesma Nsour/Oxfam
 
From futuristic homes that adjust to extreme temperatures to apps that allow refugees to speak up for their own needs, here are just a few of the creative solutions implemented by Oxfam and our partners on the ground to help vulnerable communities take on new obstacles
 
What comes to mind when you imagine the word innovation? Is it a shiny new gadget, a hack, or an app that helps you get whatever you need at a touch of button? Or, maybe it’s a new way of seeing things? Oxfam thinks of innovations as solutions to problems that are keeping people in poverty. Here’s a look at some of the tools, programs, and yes, even apps, we developed this year to help tackle some of the challenges faced by people we work with.
 

Rice farming goes digital

 
 
Development and Partnership in Action (DPA) is one of Oxfam's partners on the ground implementing the BlocRice project. Photo provided by: Development and Partnership in Action
 
In November 2018, Oxfam launched BlocRice, a program that aims to empower rice farmers in Cambodia to increase their negotiation power for better and fairer pay. The initiative will use digital contracts between rice farmers who are working in agricultural cooperatives, exporters in Cambodia, and buyers in the Netherlands. These contracts are tools for social and economic empowerment, Solinn Lim, Oxfam in Cambodia’s program director, explained at the launch. “Farmers thus gain collective bargaining power since agricultural cooperatives will be parties to the contracts.”
 

An app for when words fail

 
The app helps aid workers address the needs of the nearly one million Rohingya people who are living in severely crowded conditions in makeshift camps in Cox’s Bazar. Photo: Kelsey-Rae Taylor/Oxfam
 
Aid workers in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, encountered a challenge working with Rohingya refugees, whose language is similar but not close enough to the local dialect to ensure effective communication. With nearly one million refugees living in Cox’s Bazar, it is imperative that nongovernmental organizations clearly communicate with the refugees to allow them to speak for themselves. That’s why in June, Oxfam, Translators without Borders, and UNICEF released a glossary app with translations in the five languages spoken in the camps: Bangla, Burmese, Chittagonian, English, and Rohingya. The app is helping Oxfam and others on the ground address the needs of the Rohingya population.  
 

Growing barley grass in the desert

 
The hydroponics project is the brainchild of Oxfam engineer and Sahrawi refugee Taleb Brahim. Photo: Tineke D'haese/Oxfam
 
In the harsh climate of the western Sahara, it is nearly impossible to grow anything naturally. There are frequent sandstorms, and temperatures can exceed a blistering 122 degrees. Sahrawi refugees from western Algeria have been living in camps there for more than 40 years, and one-quarter of them face chronic malnutrition. Food assistance helps, but it’s not a long-term solution. In 2017, Oxfam started a hydroponics program—using a technique for cultivating plants that doesn’t require soil—to feed the goats the camps’ residents depend on for milk, meat, and income. So far, the project has yielded sweet success with greenhouses producing about 132 pounds of fodder each day—enough to feed 20 goats. 
 

Managing Waste

The Oxfam in Bangladesh team celebrates the installation of a centralized waste treatment plant in Cox's Bazar. Photo: Salahuddin Ahmmed/Oxfam
 
When an influx of people in a temporary refuge creates demand for latrines, and then pit latrines start to fill up, how do you treat all the waste? That was the question facing Oxfam in Bangladesh earlier this year—which has been providing water, sanitation, and hygiene support to more than 266,000 Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar since 2017. In November 2018, the team in Bangladesh built an industrial-scale centralized sewage management plant at Cox’s Bazar with the capacity to process the human waste of 150,000 people. The process is completely environmentally friendly, and to our knowledge, this has been the first successful attempt to carry out something of this scale in a refugee camp.
 

Homes designed to be out of this world

 
A new construction project called the SuperAdobe is taking shape in Jordan’s Za’atari refugee camp, in which freely available materials—such as sandbags and barbed wires—are used to build simple shelters. These temporary houses are more comfortable, environmentally friendly, and more liveable than the current caravans refugees inhabit. Most importantly, the SuperAdobes are warm in the winter and cool in the summer, a necessity in a desert environment where summer temperatures reach as high as 104 degrees.

Innovative SuperAdobe Houses: Building a dignified future for Syrian refugees in Jordan

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