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.
Identifying environmental dangers can save the lives of affected populations and humanitarian workers. Addressing secondary environmental impacts is part of an effective emergency response. Every emergency responder has a role in identifying acute risks.
The population depends on fragile ecosystems, whether local or remote. Further assessment is required to determine if local or displaced loss of biodiversity is accelerating as a result of the emergency or due to the humanitarian response.
The integration of environmental issues in health assessments will ensure that environmental harm is reduced or eliminated and environmental benefits are maximized. When assessing environmental issues, understanding the specific context is critical to avoid reverse impact.
Most pressing is the fact that climate change and environmental degradation are leading to escalating disasters and vulnerability, calling for radical change across all sectors and systems. For the humanitarian sector, mandated with saving lives and reducing suffering, examining and mitigating its own footprint on the environment should be a clear priority.
Women and girls tend to be affected disproportionately by emergencies. Indeed, gender inequalities tend to be exacerbated, leading to increased dependence and exclusion. This can directly impact their capacity to access external assistance and restrict and/or influence individual coping mechanisms.
An inclusive healthcare system can facilitate access of persons with disabilities to health facilities and distribution sites, contribute to overcoming the barriers they may face, and ensure that their specific vulnerabilities and needs have been taken into account. Well-planned health interventions can act positively on the safety and well-being of populations and contribute to addressing some of the risks directly linked with health conditions in emergencies.
Loss of biodiversity and ecosystems
Natural resource depletion
Impact on mental health
Increased intensity of storms / hurricanes
Increased drought / flood
Health programming can lead to many environmental impacts:
1. Waste and pollution
2. Creation of disease vectors
3. Displaced unsustainable rates of natural resource depletion
4. Land and soil degradation, loss of biodiversity, and damage to ecosystems
5. Health activities also provide an opportunity to reduce environmental impacts through assessments and proper management.
6. Climate change projections should be included in assessments as they will increase shelter and people’s vulnerability
Health programmes can lead to risks of environmental impacts. Inappropriately informed, designed, or implemented health facilities and programmes can lead to, among other things:
Substantial waste and pollution from programs, items and technologies, transport, operation, and maintenance. Environmental impacts undermine the short- and long-term effectiveness and sustainability of healthcare system programming outcomes and can exacerbate existing or introduce new environmental challenges. This can also lead to a loss of livelihoods, impede future recovery efforts as well as diminish community resilience
Creation of disease vectors from waste piling, materials piling, poor solid and organic waste management, and poor sewage management. Programming activities that do not properly manage (or encourage/facilitate proper management of) waste streams, pollution, or environmental sanitation can also lead to public health risks through vector transmission and/or pollution
Land and soil degradation, loss of biodiversity, and damage to ecosystems if sites are not properly assessed and selected and fragilities identified and mitigated.
Health activities also provide an opportunity to minimize considerable potential environmental impacts through assessments and proper management. A key concern if environmental considerations are not assessed during the programming phase, is the increased future vulnerability of the site to environmental hazards, such as land/soil movements or flooding. The provisioning capacity of local ecosystems can also be diminished, leading to future challenges for food, water and energy provisioning.
Climate change acts as an environmental threat and impact multiplier in healthcare system. Climate change causes increased frequency and severity of natural hazards such as droughts, floods, storms and extreme temperatures. Programming needs to acknowledge potential risks, and health facilities’ location should reduce exposure and increase resilience to climate variability and change. The capacity of the local environment to provide key services, such as resource provisioning or natural protection against hazards, should be safeguarded.
1. Rapid assessments should include assessment of potential waste and pollution from programs, items and technologies, transport, operation, and maintenance.
2. Assess disease vectors from waste piling, chemical waste, poor solid and organic waste management, and poor sewage management
3. Assess unsustainable rates of natural resource depletion, including deforestation
4. Assess land and soil degradation, loss of biodiversity, and damage to ecosystems
5. Environmental impact assessments and mitigation strategies should accompany all shelter and site planning activities throughout the program cycle
6. Assess shelter activities’ opportunities to mitigate environmental impacts through assessments and proper management
7. Assess climate change projections to understand their multiplier impact on shelter and settlements programming.
Rapid assessments should include assessment of potential waste and pollution from materials abstraction, transport, site clearance, construction, operation and maintenance, and site decommissioning. Remote analysis methods can be used to assess environmental factors.
2. Assess disease vectors from waste piling, materials piling, poor solid and organic waste management, and poor sewage management. Programme activities to effectively address these impacts and reduce vector transmission and/or pollution. Environmental screening tools can be used (refer to NEAT + tool and/or Cedrig light )
3. Assess unsustainable rates of natural resource depletion, including deforestation to inform the selection of alternatives. Invite environmental actors to participate in sector assessment. This will raise the identification and understanding of drivers of unsustainable coping strategies as well as identify potential contextual adaptations
4. Assess land and soil degradation, loss of biodiversity, and damage to ecosystems to identify and mitigate impacts and fragilities. Pay attention to communities’ perceptions of environmental issues and concerns. Use participatory assessments to understand a community’s needs, including but not limited to shelter
5. Environmental impact assessments and mitigation strategies should accompany all shelter and site planning activities throughout the program cycle.
6. Assess health activities’ opportunities to mitigate environmental impacts through assessments and proper management.
7. Assess climate change projections to understand their multiplier impact on healthcare systems.
8. Analyzing the negative effects of production, transportation, and disposal of healthcare facilities materials, technologies, and items, by considering: a) Material consumption (raw material, man-made material, water) – b) CO2 footprint (CO2 emissions and CO2 absorption cease) – c) Reuse or recycle options
The use of remote sensing to identify waste piling has been used to support the business case for building local solid waste management livelihoods in Nigeria and Pakistan.