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.
Humanitarian emergencies can reduce access to basic household items such as stoves. Crude or unimproved stoves are not energy efficient. This causes excessive fuel consumption, increasing the risk of deforestation. These types of stoves also generate increased emissions, posing a health risk.
The burning of poor quality fuels, such as wet wood or charcoal, for heating or cooking, combined with the use of low-efficiency cooking technologies, can have detrimental respiratory health consequences. Air quality concerns (indoor and outdoor) may be exacerbated by high temperatures/heatwaves. Alternative energy sources or improved cookstove technology can mitigate these effects.
Pots in poor condition can create health hazards and lead to inefficient use of fuel – particularly if they do not have lids.
Women and children bear a disproportionate burden, given traditional gendered household roles. Biomass fuels can also cause low birth weight in children of expectant women. Ensuring fair distribution and proper use of energy-saving stoves will have an impact on health and the environment.
Natural resource depletion
Depleting natural resources, creating waste, polluting water, soil and harming ecosystems and flora, and fauna.
Solid waste stockpiling and disease spread.
Deforestation from overuse of wood for cooking
Waste from unused NFIs.
Air pollution from transportation of non-locally available items.
Unsustainable environmental coping strategies where people’s needs are not met.
Pollution or solid waste management challenges may be caused if NFIs are not suitable to affected populations’ requirements, or they are unfamiliar to them, and also if they are provided in excess and unrecyclable / non-biodegradable packaging. Air pollution is usually also caused by transportation of NFIs when they are procured remotely. Community members may feel that they are forced into unsustainable environmental coping strategies where assistance is not sufficient to meet household needs.
Overuse of forest for cooking wood and charcoal has a deep impact on the regeneration of the plant cover.
Distribute fast-cooking foods.
Promoting improved stoves is recommended. Deliver fuel-efficient stoves that require less wood to function and where possible, install communal kitchens if that alternative provides a more efficient way of cooking. Even better is supporting communities to switch to more environmentally sustainable stoves such as solar stoves, biogas, or electric stoves powered by renewable electricity sources.
Remove wrappers from individual components in the kitchen sets kits prior to distribution, to reduce problems with solid waste disposal.
Adequate fuel and cooking utensils must be available to assisted households and communities.
Consider options such as fuel distribution, efficient stoves and alternative energy. Take account of the potential environmental benefits of making vouchers more specific to environmentally sustainable goods and services.
Look for opportunities to change previous food and cooking customs that may have caused environmental degradation. Provide fuel-efficient stoves or alternative fuels to minimise environmental degradation.
Contracts with suppliers should include clauses to reduce packaging where possible and ensure packaging is reusable, recyclable, returnable, or compostable.
NFIs should be sourced locally where they can be confirmed as environmentally sustainable and of sufficient quality. If there is no alternative but to source remotely then efficient transport routes and vehicles should be used to minimise air pollution from transportation.
Direct intervention by supplying NFIs can, in certain cases, help to control the environmental impact of humanitarian responses. In-kind assistance can give humanitarian actors the possibility of buying sustainable products that are in keeping with beneficiaries’ preferences and needs, without transferring the responsibility for buying these products to the beneficiaries (via CVA) who are unable to make such choices (due to consumption habits or the fact that such alternatives are not available). Define the origins of the products and services that beneficiaries buy on the market: how have they been produced and processed at the different stages of the production chain (use of pesticides, chemicals, plastic, etc.)
Assess energy needs (and the related costs when fuel is not taken directly from the natural environment) within the MEB. This can limit the adoption of environmentally harmful practices such as cutting trees or bushes, particularly in contexts of displacement. In practice, the majority of MEBs do not include energy needs, but if they do, they are based on the current needs and expenditure of households. However, taking energy-related expenditure into account in MEBs is complex due to the fluctuation of household needs (seasonal changes for example).
Reduced access to clean stoves, fuels, and utensils often causes depletion of local tree stocks, increased air pollution, and health impacts. Alternative energy sources or improved cookstove technology should be used to mitigate these effects.
% of energy saving improved stoves distributed and used.
Number of hh / institutional renewable energy supplies provided
Mitigation of environmental damage
This does not require additional effort or resources to those already needed for programme design.