Excreta Disposal

Excreta disposal is a service not just an infrastructure.

There is no one size fit all design and many choices need to be made, based on local environmental, societal, cultural and physical conditions. Find out what are your choices and the process to select the most appropriate option for your location and target populations in the following document:

Excreta Disposal in Emergencies Manual - 2021

Interactive, with hyperlinks to key references, the manual will be updated regularly with the latest and tested innovations and approaches

An excreta disposal system is designed from the household level toward centralised / semi-centralised treatment and safe disposal processes. To ensure the service last, four components need to be considered, designed, built, and maintained with users and local authorities.

The first and key component, it is composed of a user interface (superstructure and handwashing stand) and a collection / storage chamber. For the users, with the users, the process followed to design this component is key to ensure it is effectively used by the targeted population in all its diversity. The choice made at this level will influence the design of the other three components of the excreta disposal system.

Whether through pipe, truck, cart, and to ensure the collection / storage chamber doesn’t fill and overflow, a service of desludging and transport to a treatment site is a necessarity step for as long as people (affected population and their host communities) need excreta disposal service.

On its own nature can only treat so much wastewater and faecal sludge. To minimise the environmental impact of concentrated population and reduce public health risks, treatment facilities and appropriate funding need to be include as early as possible in an emergency response. A variety of treatment processes and techniques can be used in this context.

This is the end of the excreta disposal service chain but by no mean the end of the value chain produced out of human waste. Energy, biomass, compost or effluent can, through circular economy, provide economical, water security or environmental co-benefits.


If an infrastructure of an excreta disposal system built during an emergency stop being used, it need to be safely closed and decommissioned. Chlorinated lime is often used to eliminate any remaining pathogen before closing open pits.

Other resources

Lime treatment of faecal sludge for humanitarian contexts

Oxfam Technical Brief 1: Excreta Disposal Physically Vulnerable People in Emergenices

Oxfam Technical Brief 9: Septic Tank Guidelines

Oxfam Technical Brief 10: Plastic sheeting, its use and procurement in humanitarian relief

Oxfam Technical Brief 19: The Use of Poo Bags for Safe Excreta Disposal in Emergency Settings

Excreta Disposal in Emergencies, WEDC, 2007

Child Friendly Hygiene and Sanitation facilities in Schools