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news | January 26, 2017 | Philippines | Emergency

Achieving sustainable faecal sludge management in typhoon-affected areas of the Philippines

A manual pump to empty the septic tanks - ACTED Philippines, 2017

Sanitation infrastructure in the Philippines was significantly damaged by typhoon Yolanda, which struck the Philippines in 2013. To prevent the increased risk of waterborne diseases, ACTED implemented a system of septic tanks and latrines, that started to cause problems of fecal sludge discharge after several years. ACTED thus proposes an eco-friendly, innovative solution to faecal sludge management.

Assessing faecal sludge management in Eastern Samar

In December 2016, ACTED conducted an assessment in three municipalities of Eastern Samar in order to evaluate household hygiene practices, particularly in terms of faecal sludge management, as well as the solutions planned by communities and authorities regarding the challenge of emptying septic tanks that had been designed specifically for latrines built a year before in communities covered by ACTED’s sanitation project in typhoon Yolanda-affected communities.

What solutions when septic tanks are full? Tackling an urgent issue

The assessment revealed the lack of sustainable faecal sludge management which will endanger the health and development of the communities. A year after their construction, the latrines proved in good state, but the septic tanks will soon be full. Local authorities, although aware of the issue, can’t address it. In the hard-to-reach province of Eastern Samar, alternative options are scarce: only one private provider proposes its services to empty the septic tank for a price representing 5 to10 times what the majority of household is willing to pay. The rest of the respondents can’t afford such a service, being already financially strained. Consequently, once their septic tanks are full, families who reside in “Zero Open Defecation” villages (barangays) and who have been mobilized on hygiene practices consider using neighborhood latrines. But those scarce latrines will not be able to accommodate all the population: this will leave the community with no choice but to return to the bush, thus leading to risks of contamination of the water, crops, food, etc. and endangering the health of the population.

Innovative community-based faecal sludge management systems to tackle the sanitation issues

Based on the findings of this assessment and advanced consultations with local, provincial, and regional authorities, ACTED has developed a framework of intervention to address the threatening issue of faecal sludge management. ACTED intends to propose a program aiming to improve community sanitation by supporting faecal sludge treatment in a participatory approach actively involving local authorities, communities and local social entrepreneurs.

Sustainable faecal sludge management capacities will be achieved through four steps:

1. Cross cutting capacity building for local synergies:

ACTED intends to develop local public and private capacities, in particular by working with a social entrepreneurial business who will be empowered and will take over the system to sustainably, effectively and safely serve community and emergency camp sanitation needs.

2. The creation of an affordable solution for septic tank emptying:

ACTED intends to support the organization and development of an affordable low-cost sludge collection and treatment system.

3. An environmentally responsible and innovative process to turn faecal sludge into fertilizers:

The treatment of collected feacal sludge will allow a unique and innovative process that will enable the faecal sludge to be processed into eco-friendly fertilizer to be reused and sold to support agricultural livelihoods in Eastern Samar.