Shelter and Settlements
Key environmental issues linked to shelter and settlements programming
Key environmental issues linked to shelter and settlements programming
This report presents the key findings, good practices and recommendations of a study conducted by a group of LSE researchers, commissioned by the UNEP/OCHA Joint Environment Unit (JEU) together with the Global Shelter Cluster ECoP. The study analyzes the state of play on the adoption and implementation of environmental policies in humanitarian organizations and the extent to which environmental organizations have adopted policies related to humanitarian interventions. A key finding is that while the majority of the humanitarian organizations surveyed have or are developing environmental policies, these are often not consistently implemented, monitored and evaluated. Thus, their impact in practice remains unclear.
The report presents the results of a September 2019 environmental scoping mission by the UN Environment Programme / OCHA Joint Environment Unit (JEU) and Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). The Bidibidi Refugee Settlement is located in the West Nile Area of Uganda, and is home to over 270,000 South Sudanese refugees — the second largest refugee settlement in the world.
The purpose of the mission was to highlight key areas of environmental risk in the NRC West Nile Programme while using, testing and promoting the Nexus Environmental Assessment Tool (NEAT+). The mission was financially supported by NRC, UNEP and OCHA.
The scoping took place in Bidibidi Settlement Zones 3 and 5, locations of a future NRC and partner funded European Union Trust Fund (EUTF) programme with a strong emphasis on agriculture and food security.
These zones were chosen in order to test the differences in environmental sensitivity between the newest established Zone 5 and the older Zone 3. Bidibidi Refugee Settlement was opened in August 2016 to accommodate a high influx of South Sudanese refugees.
To support the needs of the South Sudanese refugees, who primarily come from the Equatoria region, and the host communities of Bidibidi refugee settlement, there are over 30 civil society and government organizations working within Bidibidi.
Current environmental dialogue about Bidibidi is often focused on minimizing land degradation and deforestation, due to host and refugee community dependence on biomass for fuel. This concern is well documented by both government and and civil society organizations, with several mitigation strategies already underway.
The scoping mission additionally identified environmental concerns that seem under-defined by current programmes of work in Bidibidi. Of particular concern is the lack of waste management, leading to increased risks to human health, and lack of awareness about environmentally sustainable behaviours.
The findings of this report are based on a combination of a field test of the NEAT+, eight focus group discussions including participatory mapping with refugee and host community groups, and a secondary data review.
Download the full report here.
To learn more about NEAT+ please visit https://ehaconnect.org/resources/neat
To find out how it can support your organization’s planning, contact the UN Environment/Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Joint Unit (email@example.com).
The Nexus Environmental Assessment Tool (NEAT+) is an environmental screening tool that allows humanitarian actors to quickly identify issues of environmental concern before designing longer term emergency or recovery interventions. It is conducted on Kobo data collection platform (on phone, tablet or computer) and produces an automatically generated report in Excel, categorizing areas of risk into high, medium and low and providing associated narrative that can be helpful towards mitigation.
The NEAT+ and associated guidance material provide more detail on the tool.
The Rapid Environmental Impact Assessment in Disaster (REA) is a tool to identify, define, and prioritize potential environmental impacts in disaster situations.
The Handbook is one of the most widely known and internationally recognized tools for the delivery of the quality humanitarian response
The FRAME Toolkit is a Framework for Assessing, Monitoring and Evaluating the Environment in Refugee-Related Operations
In this report, the authors explore the relationship between Cash Transfer Programming and the environment in humanitarian action in light of the rise in cash-based assistance and the changing landscape of humanitarian modalities. Looking through an environmental lens, the expansion of cash-based response introduces both new opportunities and additional complexity in the interaction between humanitarianism and the environment.
The Sphere Minimum Standards for shelter and settlements are a practical expression of the right to shelter in humanitarian contexts. The standards are grounded in the beliefs, principles, duties and rights declared in the Humanitarian Charter. These include the right to life with dignity, the right to protection and security, and the right to receive humanitarian assistance on the basis of need.
The Global Shelter Cluster provides technical advice, including on environment, through the following email address firstname.lastname@example.org
Practical guidelines for environmentally responsible selection, sourcing, use and disposal of construction material.
This checklist provides emergency shelter project managers a means to quickly assess shelter-related environmental impacts and identify practical actions to address these impacts.
The GRRT is a toolkit and training program designed to increase awareness and knowledge of environmentally responsible disaster response approaches.
This report presents the results of an environmental scoping mission using the Nexus Environmental Assessment Tool (NEAT+) by the UNEP / OCHA Joint Environment Unit (JEU) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to the Integrated Assistance Centre (Centro de Atención Integral, or CAI) in Maicao, northeastern Colombia.
The purpose of the mission was to highlight key areas of environmental risk in UNHCR’s programming in the CAI and neighbouring Chichituy host community while applying and promoting the Nexus Environmental Assessment Tool (NEAT+). The mission took place from 4 to 13 November 2019 and was financially supported by UNHCR, UNEP and OCHA.
Key findings and recommendations cover programmatic, strategic and external advocacy relevant recommendations. These encompass the need to increase and prioritize environmental education (waste management and lack of social cohesion), switching to green energy solutions, reducing disaster risk from flooding and soil erosion (through drainage systems as well as nature-based solutions), and enhancing the current community engagement and accountability mechanisms in place to promote social cohesion.
Over the past years, the population of Maicao has increased from 160,000 to approximately 220,000, and about 27 per cent of the city’s population is now Venezuelan. The purpose of the mission was to highlight key areas of environmental risk in UNHCR’s programming and to apply and promote the Nexus Environmental Assessment Tool (NEAT+).
The NEAT+ field test took place in UNHCR Reception Centre “CAI” near the city of Maicao, La Guajira Department, and neighbouring communities. Separate environmental sensitivity assessments were completed by a group of UNHCR and partner technical staff in the CAI, including a government representative. WASH and Shelter UNHCR technical experts completed the activity modules, finding that most submodules were relevant to the activities of the CAI. The food security and livelihoods (FSL) module was filled in by Acción Contra el Hambre (ACH) as the lead partner for FSL with the host community. This was the first time that the NEAT+ was used in a reception camp setting and on such a small scale, and the results proved accurate.
The findings and recommendations of this report are based on a combination of a field test of the NEAT+, four focus group discussions (FGDs) including participatory mapping with CAI residents, host community and technical staff groups; and a secondary data review. Tailored recommendations are provided with both for mitigating environmental risks at the CAI, and more broadly on a national and global level for promotion and expansion of the NEAT+.
To learn more about NEAT+ please visit https://www.eecentre.org/resources/neat/
The Environmental Checklist & Guidance for Shelter Response in Vanuatu was produced to fill the knowledge gap of the Vanuatu Shelter Cluster highlighted during past responses. The Checklist and associated Guidance Notes (in Annexes) link to the Cluster’s Technical Guidelines for Shelter Preparedness and Response to Natural Hazards and aims to inform environmentally sustainable shelter programming by making providing information about environmental considerations, impacts, concerns related to shelter operations. The Environmental Checklist for Shelter Response is designed to guide the shelter coordination team, program managers and field staff through the steps required to ensure that environmental considerations are adequately considered and implemented in humanitarian shelter programs. The tool is in the pilot phase and will be updated after being tested in future responses.
Download the Checklist here
Download the Guidance here
This study, conducted in 2019, focuses on the definition of climate vulnerability with operational and political perspectives and delivers guidelines for assessing climate vulnerability in long-term crises, such as in conflict-affected countries and recurrent disaster-prone areas.
The research draws on an extensive academic literature review in the fields of biology, political science, sociology and geography. It derives data from a variety of innovative projects and methods in the field of development and humanitarian aid, induced and encouraged by the Grand Bargain. In addition, the research offers a contribution to the IKI Project carried out by the UNEP/OCHA Joint Environment Unit in the refugee camp of Gitega Province in Burundi.
The study is available in French only.
This report presents the results of an environmental scoping mission using the Nexus Environmental Assessment Tool (NEAT+) by the UNEP / OCHA Joint Environment Unit (JEU) and Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) to Hpa An Township, Kayin State in Southeast Myanmar.
The purpose of the mission was to highlight key areas of environmental risks in the Hpa-An Township while using, testing and promoting the Nexus Environmental Assessment Tool (NEAT+). The mission took place from 23 September to 1 October 2019 and was financially supported by NRC, UNEP and OCHA.
Key findings (and related recommendations) cover programmatic, strategic and external advocacy relevant recommendations. These encompass the need to prioritise disaster risk reduction interventions and education, the large gap in waste management, climate change, improving the capacity for screening environmental risks, and suggestions for the Myanmar Humanitarian Fund.
There are approximately 5,600 internally displaced people in Kayin, mostly from conflict and environmental issues like river bank erosion. The purpose of the mission was to highlight key areas of environmental risk in NRC’s programming in Hpa An, and to apply and promote the Nexus Environmental Assessment Tool (NEAT+). The JEU team also trained seven NRC staff in the use of NEAT+ so that it can be applied to other projects across Myanmar.
The NEAT+ field test took place in two locations within Hpa An Township: Saint Chaung and Sein Pa La village. These locations were selected by NRC. Separate environmental sensitivity assessments were completed for each location. The Livelihoods and Food Security (LFS) expert completed the activity module based on NRC’s current activities in Sein Pa La village (Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation modules). Neither the WASH nor the Shelter and Settlements modules were completed as NRC does not have these specific technical activities in the area of the pilot.
The findings of this report are based on a combination of a field test of the NEAT+, six focus group discussions including participatory mapping with community groups, and a secondary data review. In this report, the results of the NEAT+ are analyzed in the context of the focus group discussions, secondary data review, and the NRC programme of work to provide tailored recommendations for mitigating environmental risks in Hpa An, and more broadly on a national level.
To learn more about NEAT+ please visit https://ehaconnect.org/resources/neat
This report on the situation in Northwest Uganda, published by the World Agroforestry, examines the quantity and composition of biomass in the two refugee settlements and the buffer zone around them. It is based on an inventory that counted and identified every seedling and sapling and all standing trees on 234 circular plots and recorded their diameter at breast height (DBH), bole height, total height and crown diameter.
‘It may sound elaborate to a lay person but with that information we can predict the quantity of woody biomass available and how long it can support community needs,’ said Clement Okia of ICRAF Uganda. ‘It also gives guidance on investment needed to undertake restoration work.’
Shrubs and stumps were also captured.
‘Identifying stumps is usually difficult but it was done with support from local forestry experts and the community,’ the authors note.
Findings include considerable biodiversity in the form of 81 tree species. But extraction pressure is intense. Most stumps were of large trees (DBH greater than 20 cm), indicating a decline in mature trees. This is worrying as large trees offer the most ecosystem services and are the ‘mother trees’ that provide genetically diverse seeds.
The study sought to answer the question: how much woody above-ground biomass is available for refugees and hosts? After calculations that factored in calorific value, it was found to reach a total of around 1,423,345 tons across the two settlements and buffer zone.
This sounds considerable but, given the needs, the woody biomass within the two refugee settlements could be exhausted within four years, a terrifying prospect. Utilizing the biomass outside the refugee settlements in the buffer zone would extend this time period but create conflict with local communities.
The report concludes that urgent measures are needed to stem the loss of biomass and diverse species. It recommends several actions.
The thesis of this report, published by the World Agroforestry, is that refugees inevitably place strain on natural resources and ecosystems. However, severe damage can be averted if environmental thinking becomes part of humanitarian responses.
Further, the authors emphasize that allowing the environment to deteriorate also deteriorates the ability to save lives and can even cause new threats: ‘People may begin to fight over the remaining resources.’
The core humanitarian sectors of water and health depend upon healthy, functioning ecosystems, they argue. And taking measures, such as catchment-based planning for water, as early as possible can make a vast difference to the well-being of populations caught up in the rapidly changing circumstances of a refugee influx.
Besides refugees’ urgent need for wood for shelter, warmth and cooking, other drivers like outsiders taking advantage of the turmoil can degrade natural resources too.
‘Law enforcement structures often become weak or non-existent,’ the authors note. ‘This opens the door for persons to exploit natural resources in any model they are capable of.’
The true value of natural resources is generally underestimated. From 2014 to 2017 less than 2% of the budget of the UN Refugee Agency in Uganda went on the environment although refugees rely almost entirely on trees for energy.
Were it to be monetized — taking FAO’s estimate that a refugee in Uganda requires about 3.5 kg of wood a day for cooking — the value of woodfuel contributed by the country’s forests, woodlands and scattered trees to the refugee response has a staggering value of a USD 96 million a year.
The report concludes that ‘humanitarian response needs to embrace sustainable land management and restoration, if need be’ and recommends that every refugee setting includes three key aspects.
None of this is entirely new. Importantly, the joint Environment Unit of the United Nations Environment Programme and United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has developed the Nexus Environmental Assessment Tool (NEAT+), a screening tool to identify environmental concerns before a refugee intervention.
‘Nexus thinking is crucial,’ said lead author Lalisa Duguma. ‘We need to go beyond seeing issues in refugee-hosting areas as simply migration matters and see them instead as a challenge that we must address to ensure sustainability of the sociological systems that support life. This requires multi-faceted thinking that takes into account interdependent factors.’
This strategy addresses awareness, assessment and management of asbestos cement material present in debris and damaged roofing following Cyclone Idai in Mozambique (2019). Drawing from the case study, the strategy (document) provides a general outline of key steps to raise awareness (presentation) ; design trainings; and plan and implement safe removal, handling and disposal of asbestos in emergency situations (Guidance Note)
Disasters can create environments in which vectors can increase dramatically and spread diseases. However, the chemicals most commonly used to dispose of these vectors can damage the environment and health. This paper provides guidance on how to create post-disaster sanitary efforts that remove the amount of vectors while simultaneously reducing harm to the environment and human health.
The Moving Energy Initiative is an initiative which seeks to integrate clean energy in displacement settings with the help of original research. The Initiative provides reports and tool kits which details the costs, risks and benefits of various energy systems when organizing cooking, power and future sustainability in refugee camps.
The Knowledge Hub on Health and Migration is a joint effort committed to building expertise on the public health aspects of migration and making information in this area widely available. The Hub provides tool kits, training materials, reports and schooling to better prepare for the health needs which arise during large-scale migration events.
PrepareCenter.org is an initiative established by the Red Cross which provides reports, case studies and training materials to encourage better preparedness for emergencies. It also provides insights and tools to integrate themes such as climate change, environment and urban resilience in disaster preparedness.
The Environment and Humanitarian Action (EHA) – Haiti country study is one in a series of country-level studies that assess the extent to which environmental concerns have been mainstreamed in humanitarian action. In April 2015, the Joint UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit, supported by Groupe URD, undertook a mission to Haiti to look at environmental mainstreaming in the humanitarian response to floods, tropical storms, hurricanes and mainly on the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake.
The Nepal Environment and Humanitarian Action (EHA) country-level study is one in a series of studies undertaken by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) / UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Joint Environment Unit (JEU) in 2015 that assesses the extent to which environmental concerns have been mainstreamed in humanitarian action. It provides guidance to humanitarian actors on how to improve environmental mainstreaming in a rapid onset emergency.
The Afghanistan Environment and Humanitarian Action (EHA) country-level study is one in a series of studies undertaken by the Joint UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit (JEU) in 2015 that assesses the extent to which environmental concerns have been
mainstreamed in humanitarian action. This study provides guidance and advice to humanitarian actors on how to improve environmental mainstreaming in a protracted crisis.
CARE’s Resilience Marker is a tool that allows teams to self-assess how well resilience has been integrated into their work. It supports CARE members, affiliates, country offices, and partners with assessing projects, programmes and the overall portfolio. This process encourages engagement and learning, in particular about ways in which we can improve and support the effective integration of resilience into all our programming in accordance with contextual constraints and opportunities.
QSAND is a self-assessment tool to promote and inform sustainable approaches to relief, recovery and reconstruction after a natural disaster.
An example of inter-sectoral coordination on environmental issues in humanitarian response
A short report on environmental impact assessments in refugee crises
This study by Groupe URD aimed to identify and measure the environmental impact of forced migration in two contexts: Lebanon, where there are a large number of Syrian refugees who have fled the crisis in their country, and Cameroon, where there are Central African and Nigerian refugees. It was carried out in 2017 as part of a research project for the Global Disaster Preparedness Center.
An Norwegian Refugee Council evaluation report on the ecological impacts of refugee programs and actions taken to mitigate such impacts.
Guidance by UNHCR on environmental management during refugee operations.
This brief UN Environment note provides an overview of key environmental considerations for early recovery actors, including a short cluster-specific checklist.
This UNEP/UNISDR paper provides an introductory review of the recovery operations in terms of integrating environment and long-term disaster risk reduction.
UN Habitat SHERPA is an easy to use self-evaluation tool for actors involved in the planning, design, construction and assessment of housing projects. SHERPA assesses housing projects, helping to improve sustainability across site selection, the design process, as well as the life cycle and recyclability of building materials used.
Key environmental considerations in UNHCR’s operations
Environmental mainstreaming is a process by which environmental considerations become part of the existing core work of a predominantly non-environmental sector. This short explanation outlines the mechanisms of environmental mainstreaming and how it typically occurs.
IFRC’s Green Response seeks to save lives and reduce suffering without risking damage to the livelihoods, health and survival of affected people and improving the environmental outcomes of life-saving operations.
This tip sheet aims to give specific guidance to the Non-Food Items & Emergency Shelter Sector in Sudan regarding how to better integrate environment in their humanitarian activities.
IFRC Green Response Project that aims at developing country profiles with a summary of the main environmental issues of concern for shelter and settlements practitioners, that can be used for preparedness or contextualised for informing sustainable response.
Sustainable shelter solutions are a strategic focus of the SC. The needs to accomplish durable solutions in rural and urban settings vary widely in the Somalia context and is challenging for long-term programming.
Principles for environmentally responsible disaster recovery and reconstruction, developed by the World Wide Fund for Nature Environment and Disaster Management Program.
Guidance for using timber as a construction material in humanitarian response.
This document focuses on housing reconstruction after natural hazard events that must be carried out in highly difficult circumstances and there are expectations to be operational very quickly. Its purpose is (1) to convey the full range of environmental and environmental health issues associated with housing construction, and (2) to provide a guided framework for considering these issues in the siting, design and implementation of housing projects, particularly in post-disaster reconstruction and in risk-prone areas.
This study, published by Evidence on Demand provides an overview of the key reasons that environmental and climate change issues are relevant in the context of humanitarian action.