Coping with incontinence in humanitarian settings: The role of water, sanitation and hygiene facilities

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: Civil Engineering


Incontinence is a global healthcare challenge that has a significant impact on the quality of life of both sufferers and carers. In higher-income countries with well-developed healthcare systems, experience shows that simple behavioural changes, technologies and facilities can bring dramatic improvements to the quality of life of those who endure the condition daily. However, these systems are lacking in lower and middle income countries, and in humanitarian settings. In addition, research indicates that trauma, for example, fleeing a war zone, can increase the incidence of certain forms of incontinence, particularly in children.

Aid agencies have recognised this as a potential problem, with the inclusion of incontinence management guidance in the latest Sphere Handbook: Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response (in press). However, nobody really understands the prevalence of the issue in humanitarian settings, nor the best ways to address it; with the current guidance being that it should be considered alongside menstrual hygiene management product provision. If the global community is to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly those relating to universal sanitation (Goal 6) and well-being (Goal 3), there is a need to better understand the occurrence of incontinence in humanitarian settings, and how multilateral and non-governmental organisations can best support those with the condition.

This PhD project will work in partnership with various humanitarian stakeholders across multiple locations to determine the prevalence of incontinence in humanitarian settings and how those experiencing the condition are currently coping with it, as well as how various water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities (e.g., toilets, sanitation systems, water supply, washing amenities) contribute to this. The student will work with stakeholders and those experiencing incontinence to co-design WASH facilities and interventions which will assist with management and contribute to improving quality of life. It is likely that after an initial scoping phase, the project will focus on either children or women.

This project falls under the EPSRC "Engineering" theme, in particular, it sits within the Water Engineering Research Area.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/N509681/1 30/09/2016 29/09/2021
2118161 Studentship EP/N509681/1 30/09/2018 30/03/2023 Claire Rosato-Scott
EP/R513258/1 30/09/2018 29/09/2023
2118161 Studentship EP/R513258/1 30/09/2018 30/03/2023 Claire Rosato-Scott