Finding Life-Saving Information in Routine Water Quality Monitoring Data Challenge Statment

Challenge presented by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF/Doctors Without Borders)


There is an urgent need to develop evidence-based guidance for water chlorination in emergencies that ensures there is sufficient chlorine protection so that water is safe to drink at the point of consumption in refugee/IDP camps in order to help prevent waterborne diseases among these vulnerable populations.


Ensuring access to adequate quantities of quality safe water is essential for preventing morbidity and mortality associated with waterborne diseases in refugee and internally displaced persons (IDP) camps. Chlorination is one of the most widely used approaches for ensuring water is safe to drink in emergencies globally because of its ease of use, low cost, and importantly, the residual protection it provides against pathogenic recontamination. As such, humanitarian organizations have produced a number of guidelines for using chlorination to treat water during emergencies.

The problem however is that the current guidelines for water chlorination in humanitarian response are, remarkably, not based on any evidence from emergency settings. Because of this, the current guidelines often fail to ensure there is enough chlorine residual in the water supply in refugee/IDP camps in order to protect it from recontamination by waterborne pathogens. This contributes to the spread of waterborne diseases among camp populations.

In response to this gap, MSF is developing a Safe Water Optimization Tool (SWOT) that can apply advanced data analytics and new machine learning capabilities to the routine water quality monitoring data that humanitarian agencies already collect for reporting purposes, in order to generate customized water chlorination guidance that is evidence-based, site-specific, and demonstrably ensures that water is safe to drink—for any emergency field site around the world. This field-facing, web-based tool will help humanitarians ensure water is safe to drink in emergencies zones globally.