Sharing environmental information and data in emergency response
Guidance for Information and Data Sharing in Sudden Onset Emergencies
How to share environmental information and data in sudden onset emergencies
During sudden-onset emergencies, the collection and sharing of data is instrumental to informing swift decision-making, planning, and avoid exacerbating risks and vulnerabilities.
A timely and well-managed exchange of information on environmental issues early on and throughout in the emergency greatly supports the integration of environmental considerations in humanitarian action.
Make use of the following data sets in order to support response planning and implementation activities:
land cover and land use.
known natural hazards and sources of potential risk to human health (e.g. waste dumps).
location of surface- and groundwater (including quality and flow data if possible).
location of forests, woodlands and other potential sources of energy.
location of environmentally sensitive sites, protected areas and cultural sites.
known indigenous land claims, land cadastres and natural resource concession boundaries.
distribution of known resource-dependant livelihoods.
In humanitarian response, Common Operational Datasets (CODs) are used as the authoritative reference datasets needed to support operations and decision-making for all actors.
CODs are divided into Core CODs and country-specific CODs
Core CODs are baseline data of the affected country, such as administrative boundaries, size of the population, the humanitarian profile.
Operating with core CODs helps environmental actors to more effectively integrate environmental contextual and risk data into the humanitarian system, facilitating advocacy, increased dialogue and decision-making by various stakeholders.
Country-specific CODs are defined at the country-level, based on local hazards and operational requirements.
Environmental data fall under country-specific CODs and can be datasets informing about:
locations of protected areas;
measurements of pollution;
% cover of healthy coastal habitats;
topographical data such as hydrology, land cover and elevation.
During the data collection phase, it is differentiated between:
Baseline data, reflecting the environmental situation pre-disaster, and whilst available, may be difficult to locate and consolidate.
Impact data, capturing the environmental impacts of a disaster or humanitarian response, and can be used to determine environment-related humanitarian needs as well as an appropriate response strategy.
Response data, reflecting the ongoing humanitarian response activities with relevance to environment, as reported by the implementing partner.
The standard practice is to collect and compare baseline, impact and response data to identify key risks, gaps and potential areas for intervention or further risk reduction.
Environmental data can increasingly be included in baseline data so that the community has a good idea of the state of the surrounding natural resources and the various values they provide.
The main methods in humanitarian and environmental research include direct observation, individual interviews, key informant interviews, and community or focus group discussions.
The main techniques for data collection rely on pen and paper, participatory data recording, participatory mapping, mobile data collection tools (forms on smartphones such as Kobo), use of sensors, and aerial imagery analysis (provided by aircrafts, drones or satellite).
In each humanitarian operation, an in-country Information Management Working Group (IMWG) convenes actors with an interest in IM from clusters and other humanitarian partners on a regular basis.
The Assessment Working Group (AWG) is focused specifically on the collection and analysis of primary and secondary data. In some countries, an IMWG and AWG are jointly held.
The IMWG and AWG are the intended fora to raise and discuss data-related issues. Given the common interests of participants, these working groups are also the ideal platform to share or publicize new environment-related data with in-country actors.
Within the UN context, an inter-cluster information management services is set up during each humanitarian response.
Cluster IM teams typically liaise directly with implementing actors on the intra-cluster level, whereas OCHA operates on the inter-cluster level.
The clusters that typically collect relevant environmental data include:
Early Recovery: typically data on livelihoods, natural hazards.
Food Security: typically data on agriculture, forests, livelihoods
Health: disease vectors.
Logistics: road network and key transport infrastructure.
Protection: security risks.
Shelter: location of settlements.
Water and sanitation: water and waste data.
Key environmental data gaps across the cluster system include:
key industrial sites with chemical or pollution risks.
protected areas and environmentally sensitive sites.
certain natural hazards.
extractive or agribusiness concessions.
land tenure and indigenous sites.
natural heritage and cultural sites.
Best practices for sharing data during humanitarian response include:
Share the data through HDX, using standardized tagging. If the data has limitations or is not publicly available, but still represents the best available data, indicate this accordingly on HDX through the metadata.
Also share spatial data through MapX. Environmental spatial data that is published on HDX can be seamlessly shared with the MapX platform using an Application Programming Interface (API).
Publish any environmental assessments on the assessment registry, including information about methodology, raw data and analysis report where possible.
Register on HumanitarianID, join the Environmental Experts community, check into the country and search for other environmental actors in the country.
Connect with OCHA country or regional Information Management Officers to understand the local context, and existing IM networks and contacts.
Engage through the IMWG/AWG or the associated Skype groups, to advise participants of new data.
A situation analysis following a crisis typically looks at key crisis drivers, affected areas, the number and type of affected people, the ways in which people are affected, the most urgent needs and available capacities.
Assessing the environmental consequences of an emergency and prioritizing the response actions based on the needs, forms the foundation of a coherent, efficient and sustainable humanitarian response.
Response and Recovery Planning
Environment is included into response plans in order to improve programme quality and accountability to disaster-affected people.
Environmental mainstreaming is dependent on successful resource mobilization, where environmental concerns must be integrated in funding proposals in order to secure funding.
Successful integration of environment into the implementation of humanitarian response requires that environment be included into preparedness and planning phases, but also effective coordination with national actors.