Date of release: Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Saving lives in emergency refugee and disaster campsThousands of displaced people escaping war zones and natural disasters are regularly at risk of contracting fatal or seriously debilitating diseases from contaminated water in emergency camps.

Now, thanks to research at the University of Greenwich, aid agencies will be able to survey potential camp sites quickly and efficiently to make sure there are adequate natural or additional drainage systems.

Dr Kiran Tota-Maharaj, Senior Lecturer in Water and Environmental Engineering in the university's Faculty of Engineering & Science, has developed a system to help agencies gather and interpret essential information – including the topography of the land, local weather patterns and water hazards – to avoid stagnant pools.

"Getting the water right from the beginning is even more important than sorting out power supplies. The health risks from standing contaminated water are very serious," he says.

Dr Tota-Maharaj's research into surface drainage problems in emergency camps is part of a larger project funded by the Humanitarian Innovation Fund (HIF) to improve water supplies, sanitation and hygiene for displaced people and refugees.

The HIF project to improve emergency camps across the world is being managed by Enhancing Learning and Research for Humanitarian Assistance. Other research partners include the University of Loughborough, the University of California at Berkeley and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Story by Public Relations