In 2006, with the security and welfare of displaced people in Timor Leste causing much international concern, RedR Australia and UNICEF mobilised Kathryn Harries from the RedR Australia Standby Register to address life-threatening water and sanitation issues.
Kathryn worked to agreed targets of one toilet for every 20 people, and 15 litres of water per person per day.
Her three key challenges were to ensure sustainability of emergency toilets, provide innovative temporary water supply and storage solutions, and promote information sharing between professionals dealing with water and sanitation.
“With the reduced ability of septic pumper trucks being able to reach IDP camps during sporadic street fighting, the risk of health problems from overflowing septic tanks was high,” Kathryn explained.
She used a raised leachfield design, that was developed during the tsunami response, to increase the distance between wastewater overflow from septic tanks, and the groundwater. This enabled additional treatment to remove bacteria before the effluent reached the high groundwater level, and reduced the risk to both human health and groundwater contamination.
Kathryn has gone on to a career in water, sanitation and hygiene with UNICEF . This has included two and a half years in Rajasthan, India and now she is coordinating the entire water, sanitation and hygiene response for all agencies as WASH Cluster Coordinator for Somalia . Adequate safe toilets, effective hygiene, and clean water. Basic humanitarian engineering.
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Engineers Australia is proud to announce that 2011 is the Year of Humanitarian Engineering