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Innovation - You make it happen

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In emergencies and in our long-term work with communities, we constantly challenge ourselves to be better. We've been innovating to beat poverty for over 70 years and, as Oxfam public health engineer Abdus Sobhan explains, that means constantly searching for new ideas that work well now and stand the test of time.

When you work in emergencies, you quickly realise no two situations are the same. For example, I've helped to build raised toilets on isolated islands in the swamps of South Sudan and I've built toilets designed to avoid being submerged in flooded areas of Bangladesh. Both solutions achieved the same aim - giving people a safe and dignified place to go to the toilet, as well as stopping diseases spreading. But the solutions themselves were very different, because the situations were very different.

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Wherever we are, we work closely with local people and tailor innovative solutions to their exact needs. It's important people feel actively involved. For example, we'll make sure we build appropriate water and sanitation facilities that are acceptable to the people who use them - especially women and children.

Three key areas are always at the heart of our thinking: people, technology and systems. We make sure we understand and respond to people's needs. We look for technology that will provide a long-term solution to the problems people face. And we look at how we can build systems which communities can ultimately operate and maintain themselves.

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The debit card that means Harbiya can buy what she needs to beat poverty

We've recently trialled pre-paid cards in Iraq that can be used to buy essentials like cooking oil, sugar, tea and soap. The items were chosen together by Oxfam staff and locals, who said buying what they needed felt more dignified than being given supplies. Families now have more freedom to choose what they eat and use, and local businesses benefit too as the community rebuilds together.

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The eco-toilets that save money and can even help crops to grow

Our tiger worm toilets and urine diversion toilets are easy to build, even on rocky or boggy ground. Tiger worms in toilet tanks reduce waste by digesting it, while diversion loos separate waste hygienically and with no smell and produce compost communities can farm with. Both cut the risk of diseases spreading when toilet pits can't be dug, and they save cash because they need to be emptied less often and last longer than pits too.

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The toilet that uses pee power to keep refugees safe as they rebuild

Pee Power technology uses fuel cells containing live bacteria that turn urine into electricity. We're already using Pee Power to light toilets, and we're investigating whether it could charge mobile phones or light whole camps. Living in a refugee camp is always hugely stressful, and many people have told us they feel unsafe using unlit areas at night. As such, these innovative toilets could play a major part in helping people feel more secure.

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The water-cleaning Electroflocculator that helps families focus on the future

Its name might sound like something out of Doctor Who, but the electroflocculator has very real benefits. It uses solar energy, electrolysis and ultrasound to create electrical energy that cleans dirty water, and because the main unit is easy to transport and doesn't need a diesel generator, it's ideal for communities in remote locations. One electroflocculator can provide all-in-one water treatment for hundreds of families - a lifesaver now and for years to come.

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Because of you, we're able to keep discovering new ways to have an even greater impact on people's lives. Thank you.