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.
Identifying environmental dangers can save the lives of affected populations and humanitarian workers. Addressing secondary environmental impacts is part of an effective emergency response. Every emergency responder has a role in identifying acute risks.
The population depends on fragile ecosystems, whether local or remote. Further assessment is required to determine if local or displaced loss of biodiversity is accelerating as a result of the emergency or due to the humanitarian response.
The integration of environmental issues in the shelter assessments will ensure that environmental harm is reduced or eliminated and environmental benefits are maximized. When assessing environmental issues, understanding the specific context is critical to avoid reverse impact.
The common type of shelter is the collective shelter in existing buildings or structures. They are used in emergencies with a rapid assessment that informs on needs of basic repairs or improvements that do not always include environmental aspects.
Most pressing is the fact that climate change and environmental degradation are leading to escalating disasters and vulnerability, calling for radical change across all sectors and systems. For the humanitarian sector, mandated with saving lives and reducing suffering, examining and mitigating its own footprint on the environment should be a clear priority.
Women and girls tend to be affected disproportionately by GBV in emergencies. Indeed, gender inequalities tend to be exacerbated, leading to increased dependence and exclusion. This can directly impact their capacity to access external assistance and restrict and/or influence individual coping mechanisms.
An inclusive Shelter and NFI distribution can facilitate access of persons with disabilities to distribution sites, contribute to overcoming the barriers they may face, and ensure that their specific vulnerabilities and needs have been taken into account in the distribution process. Well-planned shelter and NFI interventions can act positively on the safety and well-being of populations and contribute to addressing some of the GBV risks directly linked with shelter and NFI conditions in emergencies.
Some of the most common GBV risk factors associated with shelter and NFI are:
1. Overcrowded living conditions, increasing the risks of domestic violence, and exposure to violence by non-family members;
2. Poorly designed shelters, providing insufficient security, safety, privacy, creating unsafe conditions inside the shelter and its immediate surrounding;
3. Insufficient or inadequate assistance, exposing groups and individuals at risk of exploitation and violence;
4. Poor selection of beneficiaries and communication regarding selection criteria and process, creating tensions within communities which can put individuals at risk;
5. Poorly organized distributions of shelter and non-food items, potentially exposing recipients to risks at the distribution site, leading to the exclusion of groups and individuals, increasing the risks of violence, including situations of exploitation to obtain items essential to survival.
Loss of biodiversity and ecosystems
Natural Resource Depletion
Impact on mental health
Increased intensity of storms/hurricanes
Shelter and settlements programming can lead to many environmental impacts:
1. Waste and pollution
2. Creation of disease vectors
3. Displaced unsustainable rates of natural resource depletion
4. Land and soil degradation, loss of biodiversity, and damage to ecosystems
5. Shelter activities also provide an opportunity to reduce environmental impacts through assessments and proper management.
6. Climate change projections should be included in assessments as they will increase shelter and people’s vulnerability
Shelter and settlements programming can arguably lead to the highest risk of environmental impacts. Inappropriately informed, designed, or implemented urban shelter and settlement programming can lead to, among other things:
1. Substantial waste and pollution from materials abstraction, transport, site clearance, construction, operation and maintenance, site decommissioning. Environmental impacts undermine the short- and long-term effectiveness and sustainability of shelter and settlements programming outcomes and can exacerbate existing or introduce new environmental challenges. This can also lead to a loss of livelihoods, impede future recovery efforts as well as diminish community resilience
2. Creation of disease vectors from waste piling, materials piling, poor solid and organic waste management, and poor sewage management. Programming activities that do not properly manage (or encourage/facilitate proper management of) waste streams, pollution, or environmental sanitation can also lead to public health risks through vector transmission and/or pollution
3. Displaced unsustainable rates of natural resource depletion, including deforestation if materials sources and construction sites are not assessed properly
4. Land and soil degradation, loss of biodiversity, and damage to ecosystems if sites are not properly assessed and selected and fragilities identified and mitigated
5. Shelter activities also provide an opportunity to minimize considerable potential environmental impacts through assessments and proper management. A key concern if environmental considerations are not assessed during the programming phase is the increased future vulnerability of the site to environmental hazards, such as land/soil movements or flooding. The provisioning capacity of local ecosystems can also be diminished, leading to future challenges for food, water, and energy provisioning.
6. Climate change acts as an environmental threat and impact multiplier in shelter and settlements programming. Climate change causes increased frequency and severity of natural hazards such as droughts, floods, storms, and extreme temperatures. Programming needs to acknowledge potential risks, and shelters and siting should reduce exposure and increase resilience to climate variability and change. The capacity of the local environment to provide key services, such as resource provisioning or natural protection against hazards, should be safeguarded.
1. Rapid assessments should include assessment of potential waste and pollution from materials abstraction, transport, site clearance, construction, operation and maintenance, and site decommissioning
2. Assess disease vectors from waste piling, materials piling, poor solid and organic waste management, and poor sewage management
3. Assess unsustainable rates of natural resource depletion, including deforestation
4. Assess land and soil degradation, loss of biodiversity, and damage to ecosystems
5. Environmental impact assessments and mitigation strategies should accompany all shelter and site planning activities throughout the program cycle
6. Assess shelter activities’ opportunities to mitigate environmental impacts through assessments and proper management
7. Assess climate change projections to understand their multiplier impact on shelter and settlements programming.
1. Rapid assessments should include assessment of potential waste and pollution from materials abstraction, transport, site clearance, construction, operation and maintenance, and site decommissioning. Remote analysis methods can be used to assess environmental factors.
2. Assess disease vectors from waste piling, materials piling, poor solid and organic waste management, and poor sewage management. Programme activities to effectively address these impacts and reduce vector transmission and/or pollution. Environmental screening tools can be used (refer to NEAT + tool and/or Cedrig light )
3. Assess unsustainable rates of natural resource depletion, including deforestation to inform the selection of alternatives. Invite environmental actors to participate in sector assessment. This will raise the identification and understanding of drivers of unsustainable coping strategies as well as identify potential contextual adaptations
4. Assess land and soil degradation, loss of biodiversity and damage to ecosystems to identify and mitigate impacts and fragilities. Pay attention to communities’ perceptions of environmental issues and concerns. Use participatory assessments to understand a community’s needs, including but not limited to shelter
5. Environmental impact assessments and mitigation strategies should accompany all shelter and site planning activities throughout the program cycle. Consider using the Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment (LCSA) approach. Shelter programming assessment criteria could follow the below structure:
a) Environmental impacts per shelter
b)Technical performance per shelter
c) Shelter habitability
d) Shelter affordability
6. Assess shelter activities’ opportunities to mitigate environmental impacts through assessments and proper management.
7. Assess climate change projections to understand their multiplier impact on shelter and settlements programming.
The LCSA is a trans-disciplinary framework that allows the comparison of different design options through a multi-criteria decision analysis with the aim of finding the best compromise between costs, environmental impacts, and functionality for a specific shelter. Among the options available, the most sustainable materials and construction techniques should be prioritized. Energy supply, as well as solid waste management practices, should be taken into consideration early on in the planning phase to ensure safe, hygienic, reliable, affordable, and environmentally sound systems. The protection, restoration, and improvement of the natural environment in UNHCR operational sites should be mainstreamed throughout the program cycle and considered before, during, and after the establishment of such sites with special attention on the impact of shelter interventions on the host population’s needs for natural resources.
1. Analyzing the negative effects of production, transportation, construction, and disposal of construction materials of a specific shelter, by considering:
a) Material consumption (raw material, man-made material, water)
b) CO2 footprint (CO2 emissions and CO2 absorption cease),
c) Direct damage of natural habitats,
d) Reuse or recycling options.
2. Assessing the performance and behavior of a specific shelter by taking into account:
a) Structural resistance of the shelter context-specific assessment (wind resistance, flood mitigation, seismic resistance)
b) Suitability of shelter design general assessment (natural ventilation, fire, and flammability, thermal comfort, personal security, accessibility)
3. Evaluating the appropriateness of a shelter typology in terms of the following criteria:
a) Covered living area
c) Natural lightning
d) Artificial lightning
e) Appropriateness of materials and construction techniques
f) Complementary facilities
4. Considering the cost of a specific shelter by taking into account all the associated costs: production, supply, and transportation of construction material and the shelter set up
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, the 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
# of environmental impact assessments conducted addressing Shelter issues
# of focus groups conducted as part of participatory assessments that integrate shelter and environmental issues
# of community engagement meetings for environment assessments
Prevention of environmental damage
Mitigation of environmental damage
Specific focus groups during assessment for women, men, and children
Involve national and local environmental actors in needs assessment planning and analysis. Ask for their help in identifying parameters to assess for each context;
Include environmental actors and community organisations with environment-related interests in key informant interviews and organisations involved in natural resource management in community consultations and focus group discussions;
Seek advice from global sector environment communities of practice, where these exist;