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

Food Security
Food Access
Targeting, distribution and delivery
In-kind distribution of food (bulk transfers)

In-kind distribution of food (bulk transfers)


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

If the distribution site is located close to sensitive ecosystems, the distribution could harm the local environment. Multiple or ongoing distributions inherently increase the severity of any environmental impacts. Increased frequency of distributions increases the need to identify and address environmental impacts.

Surplus packaging presents a significant challenge during the distribution stage. Surplus packaging is intended to reduce food damage during transit, but it creates signficant waste that can usually not be properly processed locally without polluting air, soil or water.

Gender, age, disability and HIV/AIDS implications

Ensuring access to food preparation and distribution points for women, disabled persons, and young people is crucial in order to diminish existing inequalities and promote economic and social inclusion as well as limiting environmental damaging practices.


Environmental impact categories

Air pollution
Soil pollution
Water pollution
Natural Resource depletion

Summary of Impacts
Summary of potential environmental impacts

Solid waste pollution from excess packaging.
Water and soil pollution from food waste.

Impact detail
Detailed potential environmental impact information

Food for cooked meals and food ration distributions can have a range of environmental impacts including solid waste pollution from packaging, containers, and utensils; food waste creating disease vectors and therefore health risks and damage to proximate ecosystems, and vehicle emissions from distribution.

When deploying humanitarian assistance, organizations procure and distribute surplus goods to ensure that there is enough assistance to meet the humanitarian need, even if confronted with logistical or operational challenges.


Summary of suggested environmental activities

Proper site selection and maintenance.

Implementing waste minimisation or return or recycling scheme or reverse logistics and take-back schemes

Shipping in bulk and bulk packaging at source.

Sourcing local where quantity and quality can be ensured.

Supporting local people to grow their own food as early as possible.

Detailed guidance for implementing suggested environmental activities

While ensuring sufficient access to clean and safe water, toilets, health services, shade, and safe space, the distribution site/point should be far enough from water sources to avoid polluting them. There should be regular cleaning of the site/point to avoid litter entering watercourses.

Assess the environmental fragility of proposed food preparation or distribution points. Relocate distribution points away from natural areas. Food distributions have a higher potential for environmental impacts compared to markets or self-production, and should only be a short-term activity if possible.

Reverse logistics and take-back schemes involve collecting assistance materials following their use and transporting them to other areas for recycling, reprocessing, or disposal. These schemes offer another opportunity to respond to and reduce the amount of waste resulting from humanitarian assistance packaging when reduction and reuse/repurpose are not viable. Actors must determine how they can avoid challenges in communicating and managing reverse logistics, and ensure they are adapting their schemes to local contexts because there is no “one size fits all” solution.

Lessons Learnt
Lessons from past experiences

Examples are known where food distribution has caused harm to sensitive ecosystems. Surplus packaging causes physical pollution and harms wildlife, pollutes air, soil or water. The sensitivity of ecosystems should always be considered and waste management and reduction activities must always support food distribution.

Activity Measurement
Environmental indicators/monitoring examples

Food preparation and distribution points’ selection include environmental criteria and mitigation measures.

Activity Status
Main Focus
Focus of suggested activities

Prevention of environmental damage

Resource implications (physical assets, time, effort)

This does not require additional effort or resources to those already needed for programme design.

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