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

Household items (NFIs)
Shelter refurbishment / upgrade
Procurement, distribution, availability, and quality of support kits (also for for host families)

Procurement, distribution, availability, and quality of support kits (also for for host families) – Shelter refurbishment/upgrade


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

Affected people who temporarily relocate to a host’s house (relative, friend, or stranger’s) are still vulnerable and their dependence on the environment in order to survive should be considered. Hosted people receive food, water, shelter from relatives or friends which places a burden on all concerned with food, water, fuel, and other basic inputs consumed at higher rates. If not supported over time, the additional burden can become too great, resulting in hosted people being asked to leave.

These households are thus displaced a second time and often end up in camps or other difficult shelter situations, causing greater demands on humanitarian actors than might otherwise be the case, and increasing the risk of environmental degradation due to damaging coping strategies such as deforestation for fuel. Also, if host families reside in or near zones exposed to natural hazards or conflict, the risk of displacement of not only the hosted people but also the host family is high.

Gender, age, disability and HIV/AIDS implications

Waste management and recycling are often more accessible to minority groups including people living with health challenges, disabilities, or other forms of exclusion. Supported well, recycling livelihoods can give previously excluded people their own financial independence.


Environmental impact categories

Air pollution
Soil contamination
Water contamination
Natural resource depletion
Loss of biodiversity and ecosystems

Summary of Impacts
Summary of potential environmental impacts

1. Depletion of local natural resources due to increased numbers of displaced people and hosts sourcing additional food, water, and firewood.

2. Water sources, air, and soil can become polluted through the increased volume of waste and spills and disease vectors created by piled wasted items.

3. Increased accumulation of packaging, containers, and bottles may result in physical pollution and blockage of water sources, streams, and end up in rivers, lakes, and the ocean. Air pollution can also occur as waste breaks down and releases polluting gases; as well as from the transportation of items.

Impact detail
Detailed potential environmental impact information

1. Displacement of large numbers of people to host communities always places a substantial additional strain on households and on local infrastructure and the surrounding environment. This can easily become unsustainable and cause substantial harm to the environment as people deplete local resources to source timber for fuel, construction or to sell; over abstract water and local flora and fauna for food, cleaning, health, etc;

2. Disposal of excess waste through physical dumping or burning can cause pollution which can exceed the recovery capacity of the local environment and can contribute to local health hazards.

3. Delivery of items can have negative effects on the environment if not well planned, or if the needs and behaviour of individuals and communities are not appropriately assessed. When delivered items do not match with the cultural preferences of affected communities, items may be unneeded, unused, and wasted, or may be re-sold in local markets so that targeted people can use the money to purchase the items they really need. Also, when items are used in locations where there is limited local waste management and recycling infrastructure waste can end up creating breeding locations for disease vectors; causing injury to animals and human health; and degrading or being burned to cause water, soil, and air pollution.


Summary of suggested environmental activities

1a. Ensure good practice household needs assessment, taking into account all people in the household, identify required kits and content based on a balance of culture, context, and locally available sustainable products.

1b. Where possible, source sustainably produced items. If items can be produced sustainably locally, this will also reduce transport emissions and support the recovery of the local economy.

2. Provide temporary waste collection, sorting, recycling, and disposal facilities and support the development of local waste management and recycling livelihoods.

3. Deliver reusable materials (when accepted and preferred by affected people – training/awareness-raising may be necessary to increase acceptance and uptake) and create a strategy for safe disposal or reuse of those materials. Negotiate with suppliers to reduce packaging and weight and ensure distribution using the most efficient transport routes and to seek to produce items that are durable that can also be reused, repurposed, recycled, and/or will biodegrade. Provide community education on use, repurposing, recycling, and disposal.

Detailed guidance for implementing suggested environmental activities

1a. Items that can be recycled, repurposed, or resold after initial use should be introduced alongside assessing the behaviour of assisted people and providing them with items they usually use and are comfortable using, in order to avoid waste. Also, consider the future need of the items post-crisis, and if multi-functional items are an option.

1b. 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, whilst using biodegradable materials avoids the risk 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 durability standards required for certain types of assistance. Assess availability of priority NFI items in the local market and provide cash-based assistance instead of NFIs if markets have sufficient supplies.

2. Promote and if possible support the development of local waste management, sorting, and recycling livelihoods, for example recycling plastic to make bags, clothing, or furniture. Investigate the option of introducing refill stations where people can access periodic refill of products that allows for this feature using the same containers delivered from the beginning.

3. Promote repurposing of items that are shipped for the operations, for example, using bags to grow plants and using disappearing ink if branding is an issue. Reusing and repurposing can both reduce waste and create real value for beneficiaries of humanitarian assistance. And when identifying and selecting items to procure, choose options with safe but low amounts, and low weight of packaging that protects the items from external damage or contaminants while packaging various components of a set as one unit versus individual units in order to reduce plastic waste.

Lessons Learnt
Lessons from past experiences

Experience with working with young people in Nigeria, Pakistan, Haiti, and Honduras shows that supporting groups of young people to develop their own livelihoods encourages local ownership, local leadership, and local sustainable market development. The key is engaging development actors during the humanitarian response, to support young people who want to build livelihoods in their communities that will help communities become more resilient to future similar crises.

See Integrated resource recovery centers here:

Example — Haiti 2008: IFRC shelter kits were distributed following floods. In rural environments toolkits were helpful. However, in the town of Gonaives, many of the kits distributed to families sheltered in churches and schools were sold. For these families, alternative approaches, such as providing cash for landless families to help them rent houses, were used.


Activity Measurement
Environmental indicators/monitoring examples
  • Percentage of people using items that were selected in order to prevent possible environmental damage.
  • Percentage of kit items that are sustainably sourced.
  • Change in the number of people using items/kits that can be reused, recycled or resold
  • Number of positive changes made to procurement processes to minimise environmental impact.
Activity Status
Main Focus
Focus of suggested activities

Prevention of environmental damage

Resource implications (physical assets, time, effort)
  • Field and desktop research to understand the needs and behaviours of people. Costs can vary from the normal items (more/less).
  • Extra time to source sustainable products and determine whether they can be procured locally. Requires coordination with procurement and logistics teams. Can take longer to action changes.
  • Time intensive to promote or support the development of sustainable waste management livelihoods.
  • Quick wins are possible with community education/awareness approaches on waste and pollution management.
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