Virtual Environmental and Humanitarian Adviser Tool – (VEHA Tool) is a tool
to easily integrate environmental considerations in humanitarian response. Field Implementation guidances are useful for the design and execution of humanitarian activities in the field.

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VEHA - Field Implementation Guidance

Management of wasting
Management of acute malnutrition
Acute malnutrition screening

Acute malnutrition screening


Environmental factors causing/contributing to the needs and affecting the humanitarian activity

Hunger and malnutrition are rampant among refugees, displaced populations, and people living in humanitarian emergencies. Many of them suffer from one or more of the multiple forms of malnutrition. This is often connected to over use of, damage to or conflict over natural resources, and can also force people into unsustainable use of natural resources as they compete for food, nutrition, and cooking fuels.

Hospitals and other nutritional assessment and treatment centers have an impact on the environment and the environment impacts them. People accessing services are impacted by the environment, with environmental changes driving malnutrition.

Malnutrition is also increasingly being affected by the impacts of climate change – changing temperatures, temperature extremes, storms, rainfall patterns, and crop pest and disease spread.

Gender, age, disability and HIV/AIDS implications

Examine whether at-risk groups (for example, female-headed households, older women or men, people living with HIV/AIDS) are accessing adequate food and the food basket meets their specific needs. Take action to address barriers following consultation.


Environmental Impact Categories

Air pollution
Soil pollution
Water pollution
Climate change

Natural Resource depletion
Cultural acceptance
Impact on wellbeing / mental health
Increased intensity of storms / hurricanes
Increased drought / flood

Summary of Impacts
Summary of Potential environmental impacts
  • Water sources and soil can be affected by the accumulation of waste and spills from piled wasted items.
  • Emissions from the transport of people to assessment centers – whether this is the affected population or the nutrition workers, including volunteers.
Impact detail
Detailed potential environmental impact information

Some activities related to malnutrition screening generate waste that should be handled in appropriate ways in order to avoid or reduce pollution in the surrounding environments. For example, children’s Mid Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC) measuring tapes are made of plastic are made of plasticized paper and permanent ink resistance to solvents.


Summary of environmental activities
  • Investigate options to sterilise and recycle MUAC tapes and other single-use plastics, where public health regulations and available plastic recycling facilities permit.
  • Design a recycling plan for items that cannot be reused.
  • Look at options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transport of people and equipment for screening.
Detailed guidance for implementing suggested environmental activities

Search for re-useable and biodegradable malnutrition assessment resources that can be safely and easily cleaned or disposed of after use, or that are made from sustainable sources or using sustainable processes. However, while biodegradable materials avoid the risk of persistence that plastics present, the industry for effectively handling and composting these materials is not universally available and may not be cost-effective. In addition, biodegradable materials may not meet the durability standards required for certain types of assistance.

The procurement and preparation of items can often be designed to reduce packaging or to substitute with packaging that is more environmentally friendly or reusable. Finally, repurpose items that are shipped for the operations, for example, using bags to grow plants and using disappearing ink if branding is an issue. Reusing and repurposing can both reduce waste and create real value for beneficiaries of humanitarian assistance.

Lessons Learnt
Lessons from past experiences

In South Sudan, Humanitarian agencies provided nutritional supplement feeding and found that over time waste was accumulating on land and in watercourses, causing pollution. Agencies responded by setting up feeding centers and removing packaging prior to distribution where possible; providing safe comfortable feeding areas and encouraging their use, followed by encouragement to return all waste packaging prior to leaving the feeding center.

Activity Measurement
Environmental indicators/monitoring examples

The number of positive changes made to procurement processes to minimise environmental impact.

Activity Status
Main Focus
Focus of suggested activities
  • Prevention of environmental damage
  • Mitigation of environmental damage
Resource implications (physical assets, time, effort)

Time and budget to assess and mitigate the environmental impacts of malnutrition screening.

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