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

Essential Healthcare - Mental health care
Access and availability of services
Minimising issues related to alcohol and drugs

Minimising issues related to alcohol and drugs


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

Man-made and so-called natural hazards can cause significant amounts of destruction impacting the environment, livelihoods, and health of the population as well as their psychological wellbeing. Additionally, environmental factors following a traumatic event include recurring exposure to upsetting reminders of the trauma, additional adverse life events, financial or other losses related to the trauma. Inappropriate social support post-trauma can also impact someone recovering from a hugely traumatic event.

Gender, age, disability and HIV/AIDS implications

People who are living with disabilities, chronic health conditions, terminal illness, disabilities, loneliness, social exclusion, conflict, discrimination, and displacement are all significantly more likely to require mental health support.


Environmental impact categories

Air pollution
Soil pollution
Water pollution
Natural Resource depletion

Summary of Impacts
Potential environmental impacts

Air, soil, water pollution. Poor solid waste management includes risks of harm from needles and broken glass from discarded alcohol bottles, and disease spread from pollution or needle sharing. Waste burning, including burning plastics.

Water sources and soil can be affected by the accumulation of waste and spills from piled waste items. Accumulation of packaging, containers, and bottles may result in contamination of waters sources and end up in rivers, lakes, and the ocean.

Impact detail
Detailed potential environmental impact information

The drivers of drug and alcohol misuse often have some connections to the environment, this includes how sustainable people’s livelihoods are; the condition of the local environment; relationships and levels of conflict; a sense of opportunity, and hope. All of these issues affect whether people feel able to look after their local environment or feel in some way pushed into polluting or environmentally degrading behaviours.

Stopping alcohol and drug use is not simple. Harm reduction is about finding ways to reduce the negative impacts of ongoing use. Examples of harm reduction initiatives include needle and syringe programs, opioid pharmacotherapy treatment, peer education programs, and others. Some reduction initiatives provide medical items that need to be properly disposed of once used to avoid further health impacts, such as proper disposal of needles, syringes, and injecting equipment reduces the chance of transmitting blood-borne viruses such as HIV and hepatitis C.

Additionally, medicines provided and packaging also need to be properly managed. Delivery of items can have negative effects on the environment if not well planned or the needs and behaviour of individuals and communities are not appropriately assessed. Good medicine management also prohibits unsafe or expired medicines, which helps avoid immediate waste. Additionally, when delivered items do not match with the cultural particularities of affected communities, items may be unused and may accumulate. Also, when items are used but the resulting waste is not properly managed, accumulation of wastes can occur in places that have limited capacity to gather, transport, and dispose of that waste appropriately. Additionally, the lack of use of health items and the accumulation of waste can cause health problems because improper disposal and management of health wastes can also become a vector for disease to spread within communities and can contaminate the surrounding environment.


Summary of environmental activities
  • Deliver essential medical products and technologies in a safe manner while trying when possible to deliver products that do not contain or create by-products that are hazardous for the environment and ecosystems, including plastics.
  • Assess environmental drivers of poor mental health that may be contributing to people resorting to alcohol and drug use, including a sense of opportunity; conflict; relationships, and condition of the existing environment.
Detailed guidance for implementing suggested environmental activities
  • Assess environmental drivers of poor mental health that may be contributing to people resorting to alcohol and drug use. These can include loss of hope for the future or sense of opportunity; conflict between or within communities; poor household or inter-household relationships and the condition of the existing environment.
  • Elements that can be recycled or repurposed after initial use should be introduced while understanding the behaviour of the people in need and providing them with items they usually use and are comfortable to use, in order to avoid waste of elements due to unused attitudes.
  • Ensure that people and communities are sensitized to the need to properly manage injection materials.
  • When identifying and selecting items to procure choose options with safe but low amounts of packaging that protects the items from external contaminants while packaging various components of a set as one unit versus individual units.
  • Search for biodegradable options that can be safely and easily disposed of after use or that are made from sustainable sources or using sustainable processes. However, while biodegradable materials avoid the risk of persistence that plastics present, the industry for effectively handling and composting these materials is not universally available and may not be cost-effective. In addition, biodegradable materials may not meet the health and durability standards required for certain types of assistance.
  • Consider the environmental conditions, expiration dates, and energy demands of certain essential medical products and technologies. For example, if a medical product requires a refrigerated environment that in powered by energy, try to find an alternate product or use an efficient renewable power generator.
Lessons Learnt
Lessons from past experiences

In a major Haiti earthquake response, humanitarian responders used cash for work projects to help clear solid waste from drains and water courses, which reduced the potential spread of disease.

Activity Measurement
Environmental indicators/monitoring examples

# of assessments undertaken and used to inform the design of mental health, drug, and alcohol support programmes that consider environmental drivers

Main Focus
Focus of suggested activities

Prevention of environmental damage

Resource implications (physical assets, time, effort)
  • Time and expertise to assess environmental drivers of poor mental health that may be contributing to people resorting to alcohol and drug use.
  • Time to procure items that can be recycled or repurposed and to design sensitisation materials.

Next guidance:

Needs assessment
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