International Rescue Committee Challenge – making refugee camp toilets safer for women and girls

By Henry Crabtree

Posted on

14th June 2023 – The International Rescue Committee (IRC), a global humanitarian organization that helps people affected by conflict and disaster, has launched a new Challenge to capture new ideas to increase comfort and safety in women’s toilets in refugee camps. To learn more about the IRC’s mission and about the Challenges, visit the IRC Showcase on the new Wazoku Crowd website.

Solvers are invited to submit proposals and solutions that can improve one or all of three different categories of problems with current latrines: lighting, locking, and alerting when in need of maintenance. The Challenge will run until August 1 2023, with expert problem solvers from around the world submitting their ideas to win a share of the US$30,000 award pool.

Join the Challenge today!

The IRC is soliciting new ideas for retrofitting existing latrines all for under US$20 per latrine, with cost considerations a critical part of success in this Challenge. Bansaga Saga, Environmental Health / WASH Technical Advisor at IRC stated: “Proposals must be affordable if we want it to be attractive and adoptable for project designers and donors/funders. Project costs will increase in an environment where funding is shrinking while needs keep growing, with the multiplication of disasters and crises increasingly leading to population displacement.”

This Challenge series aims to directly address problems in the lives of people affected by humanitarian crises across the world. Women in Bakasi Camp for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Nigeria have said that “We don’t feel comfortable at all using the toilet if the lock is broken” and “There is no way I feel comfortable to go that far a distance to change menstrual pads at night.”

Directly addressing residents’ concerns is of key importance in the IRC’s series of Challenges. Saga took direction directly from residents who shared in a Focus Group Discussion in Northeast Nigeria to inform this Challenge topic. Community members using unlighted and unlocked latrines report a fear of gender-based violence, sanitation issues, and animal/insect presence.

David Clatworthy, Uganda-based Technical WASH Advisor for the IRC, added “Women and girls living in camps have told us that they both wanted and needed lighting, locks, and better functionality.” Clatworthy added: “The cost of Solvers’ solutions to this Challenge is not just measured in dollars, though budget is important. Improvements in this area will need to hit the cost point while meeting time and access goals for building and use by camp residents.”

Saga, Clatworthy, and the local teams’ experience were vital in writing the Challenge draft, its evaluation criteria, and providing a guideline for Solvers’ submissions.

“The IRC has engaged with staff from around the world to solicit long-standing problems that negatively impact the people they serve. The problem of female latrines quickly rose to the top of their list of priorities,” said Harry Sangree, Founder and CEO, SeaFreight Labs. “This problem is particularly difficult because it has been worked on by countless people in the humanitarian sector for a long time but it still remains a major issue. That’s because it is a hard problem. I am hoping that the multiple perspectives and diverse experiences of the Wazoku crowd will bring valuable new ideas and insights to this issue.” SeaFreight Labs is Wazoku’s long-term ‘crowdsolving’ partner and is serving as Project Advisor on this Challenge.

Join the Challenge today to improve the safety and comfort of women and girls in displacement and refugee camps. More details on the next IRC Challenge will be communicated soon.

By Henry Crabtree

Wazoku's Community Marketing Manager, Henry is also a life-long Manchester United fan - but we still love him, regardless. When he's not cheering the Reds on, he's working his way through an extensive reading list. Need a book recommendation? He's your man!