Development, Testing, and Validation of eSOS Emergency Sanitation System

Project Result / Case Study | 15 January 2016

In times of emergencies or after a disaster, the availability of toilets and sanitation facilities is always in question. Among the affected people there is also bound to be a number who suffer from diarrheal diseases, typhoid, and other conditions that make feces hazardous. This pilot and demonstration activity (PDA) proposed and supported the development of an Emergency Sanitation Operation System (eSOS) concept so as to provide an effective and innovative sanitation solution that can be easily deployed during emergencies and in the aftermath of a disaster. The primary goal is to minimize the risk to public health of the most vulnerable members of society. The secondary goal is to reduce the investment, operation, and maintenance costs of emergency sanitation facilities and service to enable a sustainable solution during emergencies and disasters.


Project site Philippines
Cost $100,000
Status Completed
Approval date December 2014
Completion date January 2016
ADB officer Javier Coloma Brotons
Partner UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education


The type of disaster, its magnitude, and the specific local conditions (terrain, transport costs, etc.) make emergency sanitation provision a complex undertaking. The eSOS concept aimed to address the entire emergency sanitation chain by ensuring each component of the chain becomes smarter. The eSOS business model consisted of smart toilets, an intelligent excreta collection vehicle tracking system, a decentralized excreta treatment facility, an emergency sanitation coordination center, and an integrated eSOS communication and management system. The two main activities of the PDA were to develop, test, and validate this business model, and to test the eSOS smart toilet and have it close to market readiness.

For the first activity, this included identification and mapping of needs and costs associated with emergency sanitation, understanding the mechanisms for provision of relief aid, turning the concept model into software, and building a user interface, among others. The business model was tested on a case study in Thailand.

As for the second activity, testing the eSOS smart toilet required fulfilling a set of conditions, such as must be foldable and lightweight, durable, ease to wash and clean, has minimum maintenance, includes either a squatting pan or sitting toilet, ideally does not require any excavation to install, accessible to less-able groups (children, elderly, ill and injured), and affordable, among others. This is in addition to the toilet’s smart features, for example, an energy supply unit – either a long-life battery or solar cells – to power the toilet’s electronic system, a urine or feces-level sensor designed to provide online and real-time data on amount of excreta in the storage tank, and a help button in the case of a life-threatening situation or an aggressive privacy interruption.

The experimental toilet was manufactured and tested in The Netherlands and field-testing was conducted in an evacuation site in Tacloban City, Philippines, one of the hardest hit areas during Typhoon Haiyan.


The main and sub-activities planned were completed during the course of the PDA, particularly developing the business model conceptual framework and software, as well as testing the eSOS smart toilet. Both the model and software can be applied for regular sanitation provisions, aside from emergencies, and as such was deemed potentially useful for Asian cities that are planning new developments or aiming to improve non-sewered sanitation infrastructure. The software, with its ability to monitor the state of each toilet, answered the need to optimize sanitation system and minimize health risks. Similarly, the eSOS smart toilet succeeded on all the proposed functionalities, and for the first time, reliable and continuous data could be collected from toilets. During the test period, over 650 legitimate toilet visits were recorded and among the information learned, 39% of the toilets were used during the night hours, indicating that the safety features of the toilet encouraged use at this time. Overall, the results of the PDA were promising and have made it closer to achieving commercial production.

Read the final report.