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 - Sexual and reproductive health
Reproductive, maternal and newborn healthcare
Promoting, providing and disposing of menstrual or incontinence items

Promoting, providing and disposing of menstrual or incontinence items


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

Environmental factors such as air pollution or poor water quality may influence the use of hygiene items and make the provision of hygiene items necessary. For example, the lack of adequate water for hygiene actions may require external sources of water or substitutes such as hand sanitizer instead of water and soap. Environmental factors affect the way in which hygiene items are provided or distributed. These include remote or local procurement, packaging, and transport. High levels of humidity or rainfall might make it necessary to wrap items in impermeable packaging or tarpaulins, which require planning for their re-use, return, or disposal after distribution. Local climatic and environmental factors can increase the use of hygiene items or accelerate the deterioration of stored hygiene items. Local environmental hazards can affect distribution such as road deterioration by landslides, or extreme weather events that prevent transportation by air or waterways.

Gender, age, disability and HIV/AIDS implications

Women and girls are disproportionately affected by the lack of access to basic water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities, due to their needs during periods of increased vulnerability to infection around menstruation and reproduction cycles. Additionally, other groups may have special needs in terms of hygiene practices. For this reason, disaggregate and understand the different groups of people in the community that may have special needs and behaviours when performing hygiene actions. For example, women may be provided with disposable or reusable menstrual pads which will need to be handled after every use. as a consequence, women may need special and additional messages tailored to handle these specific items and the messages need to be created accordingly women’s beliefs. Regarding other groups such as persons with disabilities or HIV/AIDS, create special messages explaining actions that are environmentally sensitive regarding special items they may be using. Regarding sexual health items, messages need to be oriented towards the safe disposal of items such as condoms. Condoms cause problems by clogging sewage drains.

Girls and women in low-resource and emergency contexts without access to adequate menstrual hygiene management facilities and supplies can experience stigma and social exclusion while also foregoing important educational, social, and economic opportunities.


Environmental impact categories

Air pollution
Soil pollution
Water pollution
Natural resource depletion
Cultural acceptance
Impact on wellbeing / mental health

Summary of Impacts
Potential environmental impacts

Water and soil pollution due to unsafe disposal of menstrual or incontinence items. Potential disease spread.

Pollution due to accumulation of unused items and their packaging due to low investing in understanding and consulting on hygiene practices, social norms, and myths concerning menstrual hygiene management and incontinence management.

Impact detail
Detailed potential environmental impact information

Menstrual hygiene is very important for the safeguard of women’s health. Single-use menstrual hygiene and incontinence items generate waste. If this waste is not managed well it can pollute soil and water and may spread disease.

Single-use menstrual hygiene and incontinence items generate waste which causes pollution due to the materials they are made from. This is due to the large volumes of waste they can create as unused items accumulate and the packaging around the items.


Summary of environmental activities

Supply reusable menstrual kits and incontinence kits.
Promote user understanding and acceptance and check whether they will use them before distributing
Provide training on use and cleaning and associated cleaning items
Understand the practices, social norms, and myths concerning menstrual hygiene and incontinence items in order to deliver usable items and reduce the likelihood of production of excess waste.

Detailed guidance for implementing suggested environmental activities

The introduction of reusable hygiene kits for menstrual and incontinence management will significantly reduce the volume and amount of waste produced. Reducing waste helps in reducing disease spread. However, affected people need to be consulted and understanding and acceptance promoted and checked to ensure that if they are distributed they will be used and used effectively.

If reusable items are to be distributed it is important to also provide extra soap and water, and disinfectant in order to allow for proper cleaning and reuse and avoid unnecessary early disposal.

Communities should be consulted regarding their menstrual and incontinence hygiene practices. Use of sustainable, re-usable items should be promoted, trained on hygiene behaviours, understanding, and potential myths or misunderstandings explored. Communities should then be asked if they will use the items. It may be necessary to pilot on a small scale amongst a smaller group of “early adopters”, encouraging these users to promote acceptance amongst others who may be more hesitant.

If introducing recyclable items, promotion and dissemination of information regarding the benefits of using these items should be implemented. While differentiating between recyclable packaging and reusable items.

If reusable items will be distributed it is important to also provide extra soap and water, and disinfectant in order to allow for proper reuse and avoid early disposal.

Lessons Learnt
Lessons from past experiences

An NGO supporting a local health clinic in Kurdistan realised their activities were causing waste accumulation in local communities. They decided to promote reusable menstrual items with women and saw their effective adoption.

Activity Measurement
Environmental indicators/monitoring examples

Percentage of recipients who are satisfied with reusable menstrual or incontinence hygiene items

Main Focus
Focus of suggested activities

Prevention of environmental damage

Resource implications (physical assets, time, effort)

Time and resources to consult community members and promote the use of reusable menstrual and incontinence items, and to procure and distributed, and check uptake.

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