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
Preparedness – Shelter
Shelter response preparedness

Shelter response preparedness


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

Over the past two decades, the nature of humanitarian crises has gradually become more protracted, unpredictable, and complex.

Crises are increasingly exacerbated by factors such as climate change, environmental degradation, rapid urbanisation and industrialisation, and by the overlaps between disasters, conflict, and fragile situations.

Faced with these growing challenges, the humanitarian community needs to adjust its practices and tools in order to provide a more effective early response (DG ECHO).

Every community, and therefore every country, faces a variety of hazards and disaster risks that may result in environmental emergency situations. The potential impacts from these man-made (technological) and/or “natural” hazards may vary substantially depending upon the characteristics of the community and its access to preparedness and emergency response resources.

Although their causes can be different, the result of environmental degradation can be the same as that of climate-related hazards, and they can be made more severe by climate change. For example, climate change can increase the risk of landslides through increased heavy rain over time. Deforestation, particularly on hillsides, can also increase the risk of landslides by destabilising the soil. Furthermore, climate change impacts and environmental degradation can also exacerbate existing tensions, increasing the risk of conflict and can therefore be seen as “threat multipliers”.
Preparedness helps save lives and minimise adverse impacts resulting from (environmental) emergencies at a local level.

As an activity ongoing throughout the Humanitarian Programme Cycle, preparedness should always consider environment. The main objective of an emergency preparedness plan is to protect lives and the environment by reducing the incidence and severity of hazards and the potential impacts of both industrial accidents and natural disasters.

Gender, age, disability and HIV/AIDS implications

Assess the different needs, vulnerabilities, and capacities of women, men, children, boys, girls, the elderly, disabled, people living with chronic or terminal health conditions, and people from vulnerable minorities. Address their specific needs within preparedness plans.


Environmental impact categories

Climate Change
Loss of biodiversity and ecosystems
Natural Resource Depletion
Soil erosion
Ice loss/snowmelt
Increased intensity of storms/hurricanes
Increased drought/flood

Summary of Impacts
Summary of potential environmental impacts

1. Human close proximity to natural hazards

2. Human-made environmental hazards

Impact detail
Detailed potential environmental impact information

1. The location of humans in close proximity to natural environmental hazards can put them and the environment at risk. Natural hazard events may include earthquakes, tsunamis, cyclones, floods, landslides, and extreme weather events

2. Human-made hazards, such as denuding slopes, mining, poor road, building, or infrastructure construction; increase in frequency or intensity of extreme weather events due to climate change; unsafe or polluting industry or unexploded munitions can all have significant impacts on people and the environment


Summary of environmental activities

Preparedness allows for an early and efficient response, helping save lives, reduce suffering and pre-empt or decrease the extent of needs. In this way it lessens the impact of a hazard and/or threat and contributes to resilience:

1. Profile and monitor environmental risks in the area of implementation or area of interest

2. Assess risks, vulnerabilities, and capacities for integrating environment into humanitarian action.

3. Identify and facilitate the involvement of environmental actors in preparedness/coordination structures

4. Include environment in emergency training and exercises

5. Develop environmental emergency contingency plans and/or include environmental factors into contingency plan (using all of the above activities)

6. Mainstream environment in disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation plans/projects.

Detailed guidance for implementing suggested environmental activities

Preparedness is achieved by first promoting awareness of hazards and risks and then addressing them at the local level with a focus well beyond simply responding after an accident or disaster occurs. In a preparedness plan, accident prevention, disaster risk reduction, mitigation of possible consequences, emergency response and community recovery are all important elements and each of these elements can be improved.

This includes

1. Identifying stakeholders and engaging them in developing preparedness plans

2. Assess the community profile, its environment, defining hazards, risks, vulnerabilities, and potential impact and capacities. Make use of existing environmental databases and networks such as climate data, the location of protected areas, vegetation/land cover, measurements of pollution (including information on areas hosting hazardous and toxic materials), topographical and hydrological data, biodiversity levels, availability of natural resources, and natural hazard data. Data can come from all sorts of sources

3. Engage local environmental and conservation NGOs and communities in emergency preparedness work, for example, those working on water resources, sustainable forestry, and solid waste management. Note that such environmental actors might not always be present, making community consultants an even more important resource

4. Include environmental local actors in training strategy, exercises and simulation. Ensure they know their role and added value in emergency preparedness.

5. A risk-informed approach is crucial to reduce the humanitarian needs caused by risks. A needs-based approach must consistently integrate risk assessment and analysis. This allows existing and potential risks to be evaluated and action is taken before a crisis hits or a situation deteriorates, thus reducing suffering and humanitarian needs. Identify capacities, gaps, and ways to address those gaps.

6. Prioritise Anticipatory and Early Actions and make sure environmental triggers are well identified and integrated into contingency plans.

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, 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


Activity Measurement
Environmental indicators/monitoring examples

# of community preparedness plans which include environmental dimensions

Activity Status
Main Focus
Focus of suggested activities

Prevention of environmental damage

Mitigation of environmental damage

Environmental enhancement

Resource implications (physical assets, time, effort)

Time for vulnerability/capacity assessments, risk mapping, and developing preparedness plans in consultation with communities and other actors.

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