Every year, world leaders gather in Dubai for the Dubai International Humanitarian Aid and Development conference and expo. It’s a massive event that brings together representatives from all across the spectrum of aid and development — from top UN officials to donor organizations to field workers from nongovernmental organizations — ready to discuss the biggest problems facing our world today.
This year, major donors from the United Arab Emirates sponsored an International Humanitarian Hackathon, where entrants would have the opportunity to submit their innovative ideas for tackling some of the most pressing issues, with funding given to the top three entrants. We are proud to announce that Every Shelter made it to the final pitch event in Dubai and won 2nd place after a rigorous round of questions from expert panelists!
Because our passion and mission are to innovate new approaches to aid, we had no shortage of ideas to enter! You’ve undoubtedly heard us talk about Emergency Floor and Billboard tarp (if not, check out THESE articles!). We’ve been stewing on another project to create a rooftop water catchment system. And like all of the projects we take on, this one is rooted in efforts led by displaced people themselves.
We were visiting partners in the Nakivale refugee camp in Uganda during a torrential downpour of rain. We noticed people scrambling to capture water into jerrycans and buckets and whatever storage container they could find. Water was inefficiently collected via streams off any available roof with no method of controlling for sanitation. No household had enough storage capacity to capture and store enough rainwater to supplement their water supply needs. Every human being needs a minimum of 20 liters of water per day to sufficiently meet their hydration, cleaning, and cooking needs. But despite this seasonally heavy rainfall, residents of the camp only had access to 5 liters per day.
As a result, families resort to collecting additional water from nearby rivers. Unfortunately, distance to the water source and unreliable water supply quality make this an untenable solution. Typically, the burden of collecting water falls onto the women. With longer travel time to faraway water points, women are subject to a greater risk of sexual violence. They walk many miles for water of unreliable quality, returning with jerry cans that weigh more than 39 pounds each. With time spent on supplying water for their families, these women lose educational and work opportunities.
We partnered with Alight, an NGO working in the region, to develop a plan for efficiently catching rainwater on rooftops and storing it in large cisterns. Local entrepreneurs could make these cisterns using environmentally sustainable interlocking stabilized soil bricks (ISSBs), which would provide opportunities for local businesses to grow while also meeting the water needs of this population. Using ISSBs instead of the traditional wood-fired brick is also more environmentally sustainable and could lead to new funding pathways by selling carbon offset credits!
We are thrilled that this idea attracted the attention of donors at DIHAD, who gave us their vote of support with a second-place win and introductions to foundations specializing in water aid. We hope to pilot it this summer in Nakivale refugee camp alongside the Billboard Tarp – so stay tuned!
Learn more about this water technology by watching our presentation.