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S P E C T R U M

Bangladesh

Cox’s Bazar

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Water Wise Waterborne diseases such as cholera pose the greatest mortality risk to the more than 70 million displaced individuals living in temporary settlements worldwide. But new AI technology implemented in a Rohingya refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, may provide a simple yet revolutionary breakthrough. The UCI Blum Center for Poverty Alleviation, led by urban planning & public policy professor Richard Matthew, is contributing to the development of the Safe Water Optimization Tool through a partnership led by former Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) aid worker Syed Imran Ali, a research fellow at York University’s Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research. The key is to calibrate the chlorine in the camps’ tanks to optimize water quality and produce enough free residual chlorine so that the quality remains high until the water is consumed. SWOT applies advanced machine learning and numerical modeling techniques to analyze water quality monitoring data and generate site-specific chlorination targets. The tool was tested in December at 10 water supply networks operated by Médecins Sans Frontières in the Camp 1 area of the Kutupalong-Balukhali expansion site (at right) and is working incredibly well, Matthew says, adding: “It’s exciting to be part of this international group of people who are trying to bring big data and machine learning and spatial analysis together to solve these common problems related to water – solutions that could be replicated in many regions of the world.”

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