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Oxfam calls for innovative new ideas in toilet challenge

Posted by Sophie Bowell

23rd Jul 2013

Oxfam calls for innovative new ideas in toilet challenge

Oxfam is challenging designers, manufacturers and inventors to develop new, innovative ideas for toilets that can be used in emergency situations and save lives in disasters across the world. The charity is offering the chance to get involved in their 'Design a Bog Day' in Oxford on 13 September and create the emergency sanitation kit of the future with grants totalling £80,000 available to further develop ideas after the event.

Over 70 years, Oxfam has become a world authority on emergency water and sanitation. When disasters hit, toilets and taps help prevent the spread of disease and can save lives, fast. Oxfam needs simple sanitation structures which can be flat-packed and flown across the world quickly and easily. But right now there's a real shortage of this functional, low-cost equipment.

Angus McBride, Oxfam's Emergency Sanitation Researcher said: "Oxfam need brilliant ideas and industry expertise for our 'Design a Bog Day'. No knowledge of sanitation or toilets is required. What we need are people and companies with either an in-depth knowledge of manufacturing with plastic, metals, wood or canvas; an understanding of building or packaging; product designers who could help with CAD modelling or students keen to prototype an idea for their thesis. Whatever area of specialism, do get in touch.  Ultimately, we hope the ideas developed at the event will help in keeping people alive when disasters hit around the world."

With industry leaders and humanitarian experts on hand to provide guidance and inspiration, contributors will be given a crash course on the challenges of providing sanitation in emergency situations. They will then work in multi-disciplinary teams on specific design briefs and scenarios by brainstorming ideas, building basic prototypes and presenting their ideas back.

Oxfam are looking for innovative designs in four areas:

  • Latrine super-structures - a flat-pack or folding enclosure that can be easily erected to give people privacy and dignity in the early stages of an emergency
  • Raised latrines - when it's not possible to dig pit latrines (e.g. because of floods or rocky ground), it's necessary to build upwards. Raised latrine structures are needed which can be air freighted and installed quickly when disaster hits
  • Trench support - a cheap, lightweight lining for latrine trenches, to help protect against soil collapse.
  • Hand washing facilities - a hygienic tap that will fit on family water containers, to help prevent the spread of disease.

Places are limited, so those interested in attending should visit:  for more information or email by 12 August 2013 with the following details: Name, Job title or degree discipline, Company name or university, Contact details, Area of specialism (e.g. flat pack manufacturing or plastic injection moulding) and couple of sentences on why they would like to join Oxfam's 'Design a Bog Day'

Blog post written by Sophie Bowell

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