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

Enabling activities - Shelter
Construction of shelters/settlement- Enabling activities shelter
Regulations; Codes; Standards; Good Practice

Regulations; Codes; Standards; Good Practice


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

Almost all countries have policies, standards, regulations in place regarding shelter design. Most developing countries have climate change National Adaptations Plans in place.

Ministries of Environment will have good practice policies in place regarding sustainable construction, waste management, protection of natural resources and ecosystems. Wherever any of these are not available at the national level, there are international good practice guidelines that can be referred to.

Together, these regulations, codes, and standards can help to protect the environment against negative impacts, mitigate existing impacts and even strengthen the local environment.

Gender, age, disability and HIV/AIDS implications

Ensure regulations, codes, standards, good practice shelter, and environment guidelines are assessed regarding impacts on and needs of women and vulnerable people including children, the elderly, sick, disabled, and minorities.


Environmental impact categories

Air pollution
Soil pollution
Water pollution
Climate Change
Loss of biodiversity and ecosystems
Natural Resource Depletion
Soil erosion
Noise pollution
Visual Intrusion
Cultural acceptance
Impact on mental health
Ice loss/snowmelt
Increased intensity of storms/hurricanes
Increased drought/flood

Summary of Impacts
Summary of potential environmental impacts

Failure to consult shelter and related environmental regulations, codes, standards, and good practice will result in:

1. Inefficient building design resulting in people using fuels unsustainably

2. Unsustainable use of natural resources

3. Air, water, and soil pollution and disease spread

4. Remaining or increased vulnerability to weather extremes from climate change

Impact detail
Detailed potential environmental impact information

1. Failure to consult shelter and related environmental regulations, codes, standards, and good practice will result in inefficient building design, lacking appropriate insulation, ventilation, natural lighting, resilience to hazards. These can all lead to excess energy use for heating or cooling of buildings making people use fuels unsustainably, as well as health impacts from internal air pollution and poor lighting. Lack of in-built resilience to local hazards (landslides, floods, earthquakes) could result in building and infrastructure failure/collapse.

2. Lack of following environmental sustainability guidance or regulations or national adaptation plans, relating to building and infrastructure is likely to result in unsustainable depletion of natural resources – timber, water, stone, clay, aggregate, iron ore, for the construction of shelter and infrastructure as well as designs that are not climate resilient against increased temperature extremes, more intense storms, and rainfall variation.

3. Increased pollution of air, water, soil, and disease spread are also likely. Greenhouse gas emissions will continue to increase from excess cement manufacture, materials transport emissions, and lack of renewable/efficient shelter/camp energy supplies. Materials manufacture pollution and waste, and shelter and infrastructure construction waste as well as poor/lack of household/camp/settlement solid waste management and recycling will also lead to pollution and health risks.

4. Vulnerability to weather extremes from climate change – changing rainfall patterns, storm intensity, temperatures, and disease spread will remain or increase if not understood and addressed in camp/shelter and infrastructure design.


Summary of environmental activities

1. Identify relevant standards and guidance on insulation, heating, cooling, ventilation, lighting, and cooking spaces.

2. Consult standards, guidelines, and assessments to understand which natural resource vulnerabilities

3. Assess potential for construction to cause air, water, and soil pollution and disease spread. Plan to mitigate

4. Consult national commitments and international good practices to strengthen shelter and infrastructure against weather extremes

Detailed guidance for implementing suggested environmental activities

1. Identify national, local, and international relevant shelter/camp/infrastructure designs and related environmental guidance. Ensure this addresses the appropriate use of natural heating, cooling, ventilation, lighting and provides adequate insulation and appropriate cooking spaces.

2. Consult relevant standards and guidelines and national development plans and national adaptation plans to understand which ecosystems and natural resources are vulnerable and how they can be best protected or replenished

3. Assess likely air, water, and soil pollution and potential disease spread from existing shelter and infrastructure construction processes. Identify ways to reduce this pollution such as sourcing renewable materials; planning to actively minimise and re-use construction waste and disaster waste. Implement waste separation strategies and ensure waste is not burned and does not enter watercourses

4. Consult National Adaptation Plans and National Development Plans, National Building Standards and National Commitments (for reducing climate change emissions), and consult environmental and shelter guidelines on strengthening shelter and infrastructure against weather extremes from climate change

Lessons Learnt
Lessons from past experiences

Against a background of insecurity and protracted displacement in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, tensions in 2016 over the recognition of traditional leaders led to an escalation of conflict between the national army and local militia in the Kasai region.

About 1.4 million people were displaced in the first half of 2017 across the region. In October 2017, a six-month system-wide Level 3 emergency was declared to respond to the scale of the crisis in the country.

Shelter and Non-Food Items (NFI) were identified amongst the key priorities in multisectoral assessments conducted in Kasai province. Despite the acute needs, the Shelter-NFI Cluster remained the most underfunded sector in the country
in 2018 (less than 10% funded). Only 36% of the people were reached by March 2018 and very few humanitarian partners were implementing shelter activities.

The shelter working group established a National Shelter Strategy centred around four main interventions:
· collective center upgrades
· emergency shelter kits for displacement sites;
· conditional cash support for families hosting IDPs;
· material distribution and conditional cash transfer to support return.

The working group advocated for inclusive processes, focusing on capacity-building and owner-driven construction, as well as the use of local materials and housing typologies.
To identify the most vulnerable households and individuals, Vulnerability Scorecard approach was used to target beneficiaries given the acute gaps between needs and available resources.

Developed in 2007 by the NFI Cluster, the approach used a ranking from 0 (no need) to 5 (extreme vulnerability) based on set criteria. For shelter, the scorecard was developed in 2014. Criteria for each household were selected from drop-down lists in a spreadsheet that calculated
the final scores.

Criteria were grouped into five categories:
· Humanitarian situation (see opposite table);
· Density/privacy within the shelter;
· Location (incl. tenure arrangement);
· Roof conditions; and
· General shelter conditions (incl. foundations and walls).

The organization applied additional vulnerability criteria to the Cluster scorecard. This reflected a focus on specific vulnerabilities, including safety, gender, age, and disability-related. A team of five enumerators was employed to conduct the initial assessments. In the target areas, the organization identified average scores of 4.8/5 for shelter and 3.8/5 for NFI. IDPs, returnees, and host community members were all targeted.

The selection process was conducted in consultation with local community leaders and affected people to reduce tensions over the prioritization, including the definition of the selection criteria.

a.2 / democratic republic of the congo 2018 / CONFLICT (IDP+return) AFRICA

Activity Measurement
Environmental indicators/monitoring examples

% of shelters designed or upgraded to meet good practice on insulation, heating, cooling, ventilation, light

Activity Status
Very high
Main Focus
Focus of suggested activities

Prevention of environmental damage

Mitigation of environmental damage

Environmental enhancement

Resource implications (physical assets, time, effort)

Time to research and consult national and local government, and international guidance on good practice, and to amend shelter/camp/infrastructure design.

Next guidance:

Relocation of settlements
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