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.
The sourcing, provision, transport, distribution, use, and selection of hygiene items are all influenced by environmental factors and all-cause environmental impacts that need to be understood and mitigated. Even the type of hygiene items that affected people and how they use them are both affected by local climate and environment.
Environmental factors such as air pollution or poor water quality may influence the use of hygiene items and may even make specific hygiene items necessary. For example, the lack of adequate water for hygiene actions may require the provision of external sources of water or substitutes such as sanitizer. There are environmental factors affecting the way in which hygiene items are provided, distributed, and ultimately disposed of, e.g. high levels of humidity or rainfall may make it necessary to wrap items in impermeable packaging or tarpaulins. There are also different climatic or environmental factors that might increase the use of hygiene items or accelerate the deterioration of stored hygiene items. Environmental hazards may affect the ability to distribute hygiene items, such as landslides due to slope vegetation stripping, or extreme weather events that impede transport or access.
The specific needs of women, children, the elderly, disabled, minorities, and people living with chronic or terminal illnesses should be considered in the design and selection of environmentally sustainable hygiene items.
Loss of biodiversity and ecosystems
Natural Resource depletion
Impact on wellbeing / mental health
Water and soil pollution due to unsafe disposal of menstrual or incontinence items.
Menstrual hygiene and incontinence items have the potential to create substantial quantities of hazardous waste due to the materials they are made of, the large quantities in which they are used, their typically single-use nature, and the blood and fecal matter they contain that can create biohazards if not treated and disposed of properly.
Promote, appropriately demonstrate and provide reusable menstrual kits and incontinence kits together with the corresponding items for keeping them clean.
The introduction of reusable hygiene kits for menstrual and incontinence management will significantly reduce the volume and hazardous nature of waste communities produce. Reducing waste also helps reduce potential disease spread. However, training, awareness-raising, and discrete culturally appropriate demonstration are required to encourage acceptance and use. Affected people must as a minimum be consulted before distributing reusable items and materials to reduce the likelihood of them remaining unused and going to waste.
If reusable items will be distributed it is important to also provide additional soap and water, and disinfectants in order to enable proper reuse and avoid early unnecessary disposal.
Adapting hygiene kits based on community preferences can have positive environmental impacts. For example, when Myanmar Red Cross consulted communities on preferences for hygiene items, communities stated that they would prefer to receive metal buckets and fabric dishcloths rather than plastic and paper so that they could be reused. The organisation spoke to donors and received approval to replace the plastic buckets and paper towels with more durable items. This resulted in less plastic and paper waste, and more durable items for affected communities.
Percentage of recipients who demonstrate ongoing use of reusable menstrual or incontinence hygiene items
Prevention of environmental damage
Time to source and verify the environmental sustainability of re-usable menstrual and incontinence items.
Time to promote their acceptance and use amongst communities.