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
Providing pregnant women with clean delivery packages

Providing pregnant women with clean delivery packages


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 health and 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. 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. For example, pregnant women with HIV and their newborns will need more specific care than pregnant women without HIV. 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

Summary of Impacts
Potential environmental impacts

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

Impact detail
Detailed potential environmental impact information

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. When delivered items do not match with the cultural requirements of affected communities, items may be unused and be discarded. When items are used but the resulting waste is not properly managed, accumulation of waste can occur in locations that have limited capacity to gather, transport, separate, recycle or dispose of that waste appropriately. Additionally, the lack of use of hygiene items and the accumulation of waste can cause health problems because improper disposal and management of hygiene waste can harbour disease vectors.


Summary of environmental activities

Properly identify pregnant women’s preferences in delivery methods and related health/hygiene items and kits based on culture and context

Detailed guidance for implementing suggested environmental activities
  • Elements that can be recycled, repurposed, or resold 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.
  • Recycling behaviours should be promoted and incentivized within communities, e.g. using bottle deposit-return schemes.
  • Strategic selection of items for distribution can reduce resource consumption and waste generation. Consider the future need of the items post-crisis, and if multi-functional items are an option.
  • Ensure that communities are sensitized on the need to manage partum and post-partum kit packaging and needs.
  • When identifying and selecting items to procure, choose options with safe but low amounts of packaging that protect the items from external contaminants whilst packaging components of a set as one unit instead of as 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. Note that whilst biodegradable materials avoid introducing harmful plastics into the local environment, the industry for effectively handling and composting these materials is not universally available and may require additional support. In addition, biodegradable materials may not meet the durability standards required for certain types of assistance.
  • The procurement and preparation of items can often be designed to reduce packaging or to substitute with packaging that is more environmentally sustainable or reusable.
  • Look for opportunities to repurpose 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.
Lessons Learnt
Lessons from past experiences

An NGO working in northern Niger did not consult local women about their health preferences. After they realised women were dying in childbirth because they refused to see female health professionals face to face, they changed their practice to work from behind curtains and saved lives.

Activity Measurement
Environmental indicators/monitoring examples
  • Percentage increase of people using clean delivery packages that be reused, recycled, or resold.
  • Change in the number of people using clean delivery packages that can be reused, recycled, or resold
  • Number of positive changes made to procurement processes to minimise environmental impact.
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). Also, extra time to investigate sustainable products to be procured locally, and products free of hazardous materials.

Requires coordination with procurement and logistics teams. Can take longer to action changes.

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