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.
Environmental hazards can also affect infrastructure and facilities, such as hospitals, clinics, laboratories, and temporary field facilities. If these structures are affected, the healthcare system itself and the provision of healthcare services will also be impacted.
Infrastructure needs to be adapted to the context and environmental surroundings they are located in. For example, if a healthcare facility is located in an earthquake-prone area, the construction has to be built in a way that it withstands the possible negative consequences of the earthquake.
Ensure equal participation, supply, distribution, and monitoring of environmentally appropriate fuel and household energy supplies across all gender, ages, and disabilities.
Loss of biodiversity and ecosystems
Natural resource depletion
Refurbishment, upgrades, construction of health facilities can have many environmental impacts:
1. Air pollution, water, or soil pollution
2. Depletion of natural resources including deforestation
3. Degradation of soil quality and contribution to desertification
4. Eutrophication of local water resources
5. Loss of biodiversity and damage to ecosystems
6. Soil erosion
7. Contribution to climate change
If not planned well, the refurbishment, upgrades, and construction of new hospitals, clinics, laboratories, and temporary field facilities can have significant harmful environmental impacts.
1. Air pollution, water, and soil pollution can be caused by construction waste and construction vehicles, and construction practices including the use of concrete, paints, and other chemicals.
2. Natural resources can be unsustainably depleted including aggregate, timber, water, and clay
3. Site clearance, natural resource extraction, and construction activities can all affect soil quality and contribute to desertification.
4. Pollution from construction and from the health facility’s management of sewage, clinical waste, food waste, expired medicines, and solid waste can all cause eutrophication of local water bodies or watercourses
5. Construction activities and pollution from waste can all harm local biodiversity and damage ecosystems
6. Soil erosion may occur from both construction activities and operations
7. Energy use, medicine, food, drugs and machinery procurement, and vehicle use can all contribute to climate change
Write a Construction Management Plan and an Operation and Maintenance Plan to manage construction, operation, and maintenance activities:
1. Assessing and mitigating pollution from construction waste, construction vehicles, and construction practices, medical waste incinerators, medicines disposal, and solid waste management, food waste, sewage, and hazardous chemicals.
2. Design for efficient use of sustainable construction materials
3. Assess and protect sit vulnerabilities such as drainage, water resources, and biodiversity
4. Assess and avoid pollution from clinical waste, expired medicines, and solid waste. Establish sustainable procurement policies
5. Plan low impact construction processes and re-use of disaster and construction waste
6. Plan to avoid, reduce or restore any soil erosion
7. Efficient energy, medicine, food, drugs, water, and machinery used
8. Plan environmental benefits including natural heating and cooling, ventilation, lighting
9. Ensure public transport links
10. Plan new or use of existing green spaces for health promotion and wellbeing
The potential environmental impact of health facilities should always be carefully assessed and mitigated. Both a Construction Management Plan and an Operation and Maintenance Plan should be written to carefully manage the following activities:
1. Assessing and mitigating potential air pollution from medical waste incinerators, medicines disposal, and solid waste management. Assessing and mitigating water and soil pollution from construction waste, construction vehicles, and construction practices including the use of concrete, paints, and other chemicals as well as from solid waste management, cleaning products, canteen food waste, and sewage.
2. Buildings should be designed for the efficient use of materials that are sustainably sourced. If the local environment can provide a plentiful supply of rocks/stone without harming local ecosystems then this should be incorporated into construction and concrete and cement use reduced. Any aggregate used should be carefully sourced ensuring that it is not dredged from fish breeding grounds or other locations that could destroy fragile ecosystems. Timber should not be cut unsustainably and may be able to be replaced with bamboo.
Water should not be used unsustainably and greywater should be captured and re-used where possible, and treated before discharge into the environment. Local resources of clay may be able to be used sustainably, however, the firing of clay bricks often causes devastation to local forests to provide the wood for the brick kilns.
3. Sites should be assessed for their drainage, water resources, biodiversity, and sensitive areas protected. Clearing entire sites with excavators are usually unnecessary and harmful and can lead to biodiversity loss, reduction in soil quality, and even contribute to desertification. This must be avoided.
4. Potential pollution from construction and from the health facility’s management of sewage, clinical waste, food waste, expired medicines and solid waste should all be assessed and all waste should be minimised and appropriately treated before being released into the environment. Establish procurement policies that reduce waste and ensure packaging can be reused, repurposed, returned, recycled, or composted.
5. Construction methods can damage the environment – lighter construction equipment, reduction and re-use of construction waste, re-use of disaster/crisis waste can all help reduce these impacts.
6. Soil erosion can be reduced by writing construction method statements that are not vulnerable areas. These may include slope protection or restoration or avoiding vulnerable locations.
7. Energy use, medicine, food, drugs and machinery procurement, and the vehicle should all be assessed and planned for, mitigating negative environmental impacts.
Humanitarian crises may require the rapid construction of health facilities. However, there have been many examples of them being provided without consideration of their environmental impact. This leads to air, water, and soil pollution and depletion of natural resources.
Time and resources to develop effective Construction Management Plans and Operations and Maintenance Plans that assess and reduce negative environmental impacts and create environmental benefits.