Evaluation of UNHCR Waste-to-Value Sanitation Project

Home-Based / Remote
Position Type: 
Organization Type: 
International Organization
Experience Level: 
5-7 Years
Degree Required: 
Advanced Degree (Master's or JD)


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1. Background

A 2014 study by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), with funding from the Gates Foundation, found that whilst the basic pit latrine is usually the most cost effective option in the long run, waste-to-value (WTV) solutions can provide more cost effective alternatives in areas where the site is congested, or where the ground conditions are challenging (high groundwater table, flood prone, hard rocky ground, etc). The BCG study also found that in a few circumstances WTV solutions might provide additional livelihood and protection benefits, but at that point in refugee settings had been limited to small pilots.

UNHCR obtained funds from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to further research and develop waste-to-value sanitation solutions for protracted refugee camp situations, focusing on areas where sanitation solutions are challenging due to site congestion and/or challenging ground conditions. Three sanitation solutions were selected via a multi-stakeholder, multi-stage selection process that culminated in a workshop where short-listed solutions were presented, interrogated and debated. The selected solutions were as follows:

1.     Urine-diversion desiccating toilets with potential soil conditioner reuse product;

2.     Tiger worm toilets to a small volume of ‘tea’-like compost;

3.     Urine-diversion desiccating toilets (‘containerised’) to solid fuel briquettes, designed an operated by a social enterprise, Sanivation Ltd.

Following implementation, double-vault UDDT’s were validated as a solution for difficult ground conditions in refugee settings in East Africa. Tiger Worm Toilets were found to be too sensitive to local conditions (notably drainage) and were dropped for the time being. Container-based toilets with solid fuel briquettes as a reuse product (the ‘Sanivation model’ from hereon in) was referred for additional research focused on the business and financial case.

The Sanivation model is described in detail in the document “Container-based Toilets with Solid Fuel Briquettes Guidelines” (see http://wash.unhcr.org/download/container-based-toilets-with-solid-fuel-guidelines/). Urine-diversion container-based toilets are emptied on a regular (currently twice-weekly) basis using small handcarts (‘dolly-carts’), tuk-tuks and a 4x4 pick-up. The waste (faeces) is pasteurised at 65°C for 3 hours. The hygienized waste is then mixed with charcoal dust that has been purchased from local charcoal producers and retailers, pressed into briquettes, which are then dried. The briquettes are currently sold to refugees at the same price as charcoal, to which they compare favourably as a cooking fuel. Sales to urban markets up to 500km from Kakuma have also commenced as an effort to expand the market and combat the troughs in sales that occur immediately after periodic free firewood distribution.

Sanivation is operating at a scale of 500 toilets, having increased the number in October 2018 from the 250 in operation since June 2017 to 500 in order to test the model at a scale that uses their treatment plant more optimally (i.e. with reduced idle capacity across the system). Sanivation has developed a financial model that outputs an income statement and the present value cost per person served by the sanitation service per year over a 10-year lifecycle. In this way the annual cost can be compared with that of alternatives. Currently the primary alternatives considered are the pit latrine (normal conditions) and double vault urine diversion toilet (difficult ground conditions).

The centralised treatment and logistically demanding emptying and transport operation involved in the Sanivation model make the cost-effectiveness of the operation scale-dependent. In many refugee settlements/camps, difficult ground conditions are patchy or limited in extent. In such cases, sanitation services that need a certain scale over a contiguous service area to be cost-effective will necessarily cover some area that could be served by pit latrines.

The need for a continual emptying operation constitutes a significant risk. Therefore such an operation needs to have clear demonstrated advantages and risk mitigation must be robust, for it to be worthwhile. Alternative sanitation options, such as those mentioned above, also carry risks and these should be identified and assigned some measure of magnitude (a precise quantification is not realistic or required for this assignment).

This consultancy will examine Sanivation’s business model and financial model in order to help UNHCR assess its viability in the East African and similar contexts. The cost-effectiveness, financial sustainability and risks will be evaluated and compared with relevant alternative sanitation solutions, such as those mentioned above. One of the challenges in conducting a valid comparison is that latrines/toilets in refugee camps are constructed as part of a large-scale humanitarian operation, whereas the Sanivation model is a small scale operation with a dedicated manager plus additional technical support and oversight personnel. The Consultant will therefore need to make an estimate of the management costs for the Sanivation model and alternatives for equivalent/comparable operations, and ideally under several scenarios and scales.

Various options are being considered for the incorporation of the Sanivation model into a refugee operation. These include an enterprise led by refugees, local host community members or both, implementation by a not-for-profit UNHCR Implementing Partner or implementation by the private sector. The consultant will assess the feasibility of these, in consultation with knowledgeable staff members from UNHCR, NRC and Sanivation, and make recommendations on the management structure for the feasible options amongst the potential institutional arrangements.


The objectives of this consultancy are:

1.     To evaluate the business and financial viability of Sanivation’s service model to the protracted refugee camp context with a focus on the environments and contexts found in East Africa.

2.     To compare the cost and risk profile of the Sanivation model with the most viable alternatives, again, with a focus on the contexts found in East Africa.


It is anticipated that this consultancy will involve a 2-week deployment to Kakuma Refugee Camp to work closely with Sanivation, the Norwegian Refugee Council and UNHCR, analysing their field operations, financial records and financial model and understanding the physical and institutional context they are working in. Once a draft report has been submitted, UNHCR will provide consolidated comments within 3 weeks of reception. The work should start by 1st May 2019 and be completed, and final report submitted by 31 August 2019, with the field visit taking place in June 2019.


The key deliverables will be a report containing the following elements:

1.     A review of the viability of Sanivation’s operation in Kakuma, identifying and taking into account the opportunities, constraints and risks/threats emanating from the local context and UNHCR institutional environment.

2.     A revised, fully reviewed financial model. The current model format has been developed by Sanivation with support from Ernst & Young. The consultant may use this model or may adapt it, so long as adaptations are justified in the consultant’s report.

3.     A narrative review of the financial model, including the following elements:

a.     A review/appraisal of the assumptions and their validity and the degree of certainty/uncertainty around them.

b.     A sensitivity analysis, highlighting the elements that will have the most impact for a nominal change in their value (say, 10%), and the elements whose values are most susceptible to major swings.

4.     A detailed appraisal of the impact of scale and further scaling up on the financials and cost-effectiveness of the operation, both in Kakuma and more generally/elsewhere.

5.     Opportunities for reducing costs without impacting the quality or viability of the operation.

6.     A discussion of the pros and cons of different potential models for replicating Sanivation’s model in similar contexts, such as franchising, design-build-transfer and design-build-operate. Are there clear advantages of one of these over others? What assumptions does this depend on?

7.     Identify all substantive risks attached to the Sanivation model, as well as pit latrines, double vault urine diversion toilets and any other relevant alternative solutions.

8.     Estimate the management costs for the Sanivation model and alternatives for equivalent/comparable operations, and ideally under several scenarios and scales.

9.     Conduct a cost and risk comparison of the Sanivation model and the abovementioned alternatives, and draw out conclusions and recommendations in the report.

10.  Assess the feasibility of different options for institutions arrangements for incorporating Sanivation’s model into refugee operations and present recommendations on the management structure for the feasible options.


UNHCR is seeking an individual management consultant to evaluate the viability of Sanivation’s sanitation service model and its competitiveness against relevant alternatives.

The management consultant should have the following qualifications and experience:

·       5+ years experience in management consulting;

·       Degree and higher degree (MSc, PhD etc) in a relevant discipline (business administration, finance etc);

·       A relevant accounting qualification desirable;

·       Some knowledge/experience of sanitation in rural low-resource settings desirable;

·       Prior experience of working/consulting in a rural environment in Africa;

·       Excellent written and spoken English.

3. Applications

Interested consultants should submit an updated CV and P11 form, including the names and contact details of 3 referees (including for their most recent engagement), as well as their daily rate (inclusive of all taxes), an estimated total number of days to complete the assignment, and 2-3 examples of reports on similar assignments for which the applicant was the principal author, to hqwash@unhcr.org .