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
Orienting staff and volunteers on how to offer psychological first aid

Orienting staff and volunteers on how to offer psychological first aid


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
Cultural acceptance
Impact on wellbeing / mental health

Summary of Impacts
Potential environmental impacts

Untrained staff can unintentionally exacerbate environmental harm and negatively impact the community and individuals’ wellbeing and mental health. Additional staff can increase air pollution if additional travel is required.

Impact detail
Detailed potential environmental impact information

Training and orienting staff and volunteers on how to offer and effectively provide psychological first aid can help ensure the appropriate treatment of patients and healthcare services. Staff needs to be properly trained in order to ensure adequate patient treatment and referral, if needed, to further psychological support services. Training and orienting staff on psychological first aid can help increase the efficiency and effectiveness of medical treatments and thus eliminate unnecessary use of medical supplies and technologies. Additionally, orienting local staff instead of bringing in international volunteers or staff helps increase local ownership and capacities whilst reducing environmental air pollution due to travel.


Summary of environmental activities

Properly train local staff on psychological first aid so they are equipped to be the first line of support to crisis-affected populations.

Detailed guidance for implementing suggested environmental activities
  • Ensure that the planning and design phases for the construction of new health facilities include areas that provide staff, visitors, patients with safe, confidential spaces so that support can be provided away from any trauma triggers such as observation by potential abusers.
  • Ensure provision of good access by public transport and disabled access, as well as appropriate facilities (for example, safe parking spaces, changing rooms, colour schemes, green spaces, indoor plants) – comfortable environments that benefit people’s mental health through reducing stress and anxiety.
  • When recruiting or moving staff the environmental impacts of transportation and energy use should be assessed and minimised. Local staff should be employed instead of international staff/ex-pats, wherever possible. This can ensure cultural understanding and acceptance and also reduce the higher emissions, consumption, and pollution associated with transporting and supporting staff from other countries.
  • Ensure that the health workforce is prepared and able to adapt to environmental emergencies, different environmental conditions, and projected impacts of climate change.
  • Recognise that staff in acute emergencies may have expanded roles and need training and support.
  • Promoting and enabling the use of public transportation and non-motorized transportation (cycling and walking) for staff as well as for patients and visitors. Exercising can help reduce stress and anxiety levels.
Lessons Learnt
Lessons from past experiences

UNICEF responding to the Covid-19 spread in Yemen demonstrated that there were existing trained health staff available in the community who could be incentivised to return to work in the public health sector and help reduce the spread of the disease. Their refresher training included environmental determinants of health.

Activity Measurement
Environmental indicators/monitoring examples
  • # of new health facilities with direct access to public transport
  • The proportion of local to ex-pat staff
  • # of health facilities designed specifically to support wellbeing, calmness, and positive mental health
Main Focus
Focus of suggested activities
  • Prevention of environmental damage
  • Mitigation of environmental damage
  • Environmental enhancement
Resource implications (physical assets, time, effort)
  • Time, resources, and budget to design safe spaces and calming features into health facilities and ensure access to public transport, and promote more sustainable transport including cycling.
  • Time to amend recruitment policies and to sources and train and support local staff.
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