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

Water supply, Sanitation and Hygiene Promotion (WASH)
WASH in disease outbreaks and healthcare settings
Disease treatment
Disease treatment

Disease treatment


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

Pollution and environmental degradation intensify environmental health risks and create harmful living conditions. Pollution of the water, soil, and the air is a threat to human health and wellbeing and exacerbates poverty and inequality.

The presence of pollution and disease can force people into environmentally damaging coping strategies due to shortages of basic supplies and limitations on income or on movement.

Humanitarian assistance to sickness/disease may be seen as too urgent to require consideration of the environmental consequences.

Gender, age, disability and HIV/AIDS implications

Children and the elderly are particularly affected by contaminated water due to weaker immune systems.

Women are most likely to manage solid, water, and household waste, which can pose serious health risks if mismanaged. Contaminated water can also drain into streams and other surface water, which is used for washing, cleaning, and bathing increasing the risk of further pollution among women and children.


Environmental impact categories

Soil pollution
Water pollution
Natural Resource Depletion
Loss of biodiversity and ecosystems

Summary of Impacts
Summary of potential environmental impacts

Soil and water pollution
Increase of unmanaged or poorly managed solid waste
Increased disease vectors
Hazardous waste pollution
Increased humanitarian waste

Impact detail
Detailed potential environmental impact information

When responding to crises where disease is prevalent, great attention and resources are typically given to the immediate disease crisis. This can often result in environmental impacts being ignored or seen as someone else’s problem to deal with later. This can result in:

Soil and water pollution due to lack of capacities to manage wastewater and sludge from health facilities

Pollution from poorly managed solid waste (including the plastic type of waste, medical contaminated waste) and health-related waste

Increased disease vectors

Release of hazardous waste into the environment

Increase in solid waste dumping through poor planning of humanitarian activities

Humanitarian assistance to sickness/disease may be seen as too urgent to require consideration of the environmental consequences.


Summary of environmental activities

Require environment to be considered in humanitarian health activities
Wastewater and sludge treatment facilities/services
Solid waste sorting, collection, separation, re-use, recycling
Organic waste separation and composting
Upgrade wastewater treatment to ensure chemicals cannot enter the soil or watercourses or re-enter the water source
Plan safe storage of chemicals and disposal of health-related waste

Detailed guidance for implementing suggested environmental activities

Ensure all humanitarian activities, including health responses are required to plan to assess and reduce their environmental impact. Where wastewater and sludge treatment facilities/services are not available or are insufficient, funding should be provided to upgrade them to prevent the humanitarian response contributing to disease spread. Funding should be provided for solid waste sorting, collection, separation, reuse, and recycling. Organic waste separation and composting facilities should be funded.

Upgrade wastewater treatment to ensure chemicals cannot enter the soil or watercourses or re-enter the water source. Plan for the safe storage of chemicals and disposal of health-related waste. Develop pollution scenarios. Plan according to a reasonable scenario, in relation to your organisation’s capacities and skills. Ensure coordination with partners to cover gaps and needs. Coordinate with the health ministry and local entities to share information and emphasize coordination.

Bodies should not be buried in “Body Bags” as these will limit natural decomposition; they should be buried away from water sources. Cultural practices should be followed where possible.

Lessons Learnt
Lessons from past experiences

Many countries have outlawed the use of single-use carrier bags. Many are now outlawing the use of single-use plastic straws and coffee cups. This is starting to reduce some sources of solid waste that also contribute to disease spread.

Activity Measurement
Environmental indicators/monitoring examples

Number of humanitarian health activities that demonstrate they have assessed and addressed environmental impact.

Activity status
Main Focus
Focus of suggested activities

Prevention of environmental damage

Resource implications (physical assets, time, effort)

Time for assessing and addressing environment within humanitarian health activities.

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