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

Water supply, Sanitation and Hygiene Promotion (WASH)
Access to sanitation
Faecal Sludge management (FSM)
Short- and long-term management of toilets, including unused ones

Short- and long-term management of toilets, including unused ones


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

Water pollution can affect people’s health. Bacterial, viral and parasitic diseases like typhoid, cholera, encephalitis, poliomyelitis, hepatitis, skin infection and gastrointestinal diseases can spread through polluted water increasing the probabilities of overloading the capacity of excreta management systems due to diarrhoeal and vomiting cases. This impacts efficiency and capacity (that is increased amount of excreta generated due to health burdens).

In addition, proximity between water tubewells and latrines, soil porosity, ground water table, topography, drainage, and stability of slopes, may result in pollution of wells from surface water, sewage, sludge, solid waste leachates, chemical spills, etc and subsequent sickness or disease.

Gender, age, disability and HIV/AIDS implications

The specific needs of women, children, the elderly, disabled, minorities, and people living with chronic or terminal illnesses should be considered in the provision of latrines and water supplies.


Environmental impact categories

Soil pollution
Water pollution
Loss of biodiversity and ecosystems
Natural Resource depletion
Soil erosion

Summary of Impacts
Summary of potential environmental impacts

Water and soil pollution due to improper management of toilets and water depletion due to an additional demand.

Impact detail
Detailed potential environmental impact information

Toilets/latrines and pits/septic tanks need emptying and maintenance in order to ensure their ongoing function.

Flush toilets may clog when sanitary items and solid waste are flushed. This will can cause overflows and make the toilets unusable. Single pit latrines may fill faster than expected forcing people to use alternatives for defecation that may pollute the environment. Over the long term, the amount of water per flush may unsustainably reduce the available water resources, making flush toilets, not viable solutions. Unused toilets can be a health hazard to people and to the environment due to the untreated septage they contain.


Summary of environmental activities

Establish a management plan, including regular emptying, cleaning and maintenance, and mitigating water use. Plan to safely decommission unused toilets. Plan for safe burial, removal, and treatment of septage / faecal waste.

Detailed guidance for implementing suggested environmental activities

Create a management plan for all latrines, to ensure their proper and regular emptying, septage treatment, and latrine cleaning and maintenance. This will ensure they remain available and functioning, and that they are hygienic and less likely to pollute the surrounding environment.

The plan should be created with the community and should include training and clear maintenance instructions. If the facilities are to remain in use after humanitarian response activities have ended, then the community should form user committees that take responsibility for funding and providing maintenance. In the case of short-term interventions, fluctuations in the number of users should be considered and the final disposal and treatment of the septage and other waste should be included in the waste management plan.

Most latrines require water to operate effectively, adding an additional burden to existing water resources. The yield/recharge capacity of the water source should be considered, and strategies for minimizing water consumption (e.g. greywater reuse, dry toilets) should be also employed in water-scarce settings.

Determine the safest way, for both the people and the environment, of decommissioning any unused toilets. When doing so, prevent any leakages or spills of the contained sludge/septage and transport it to a treatment facility to ensure safe disposal. Latrine superstructures should be designed so that they can be disassembled and relocated, whilst pits should be sealed with rubble and organic matter up to the surface. The surface of the pit should be capped with a mound as the pit contents will continue to settle. Where possible plant trees or shrubs on closed pits as this benefits the environment and reduces environmental health hazards.

Where sewer networks have been provided and are being decommissioned, ensure sludge is safely removed and treated at a suitably designed facility. Ensure that facilities are safely closed and any user interfaces such as toilets, are uninstalled and all pipes are properly sealed to avoid harm to people and to avoid future use that may lead to direct pollution of the site because septage will no longer be being either collected or treated.

Lessons Learnt
Lessons from past experiences

More than 3.5 billion people around the world live without safely managed sanitation. Inadequate sanitation and hygiene are estimated to have caused more than half a million deaths from diarrhea alone in 2016. Safe sanitation is essential to a healthy and sustainable future for developing economies.

Activity Measurement
Environmental indicators/monitoring examples

A management plan for toilets is created and shared with the affected communities

Water usage of delivered toilets and availability of water resources were assessed.

Percentage of unused toilets that are properly decommissioned and sealed.

Percentage of waste from decommissioned toilets that is safely treated

Activity status
Main Focus
Focus of suggested activities

Prevention of environmental damage

Resource implications (physical assets, time, effort)

Time and money to empty, clean, maintain toilets and/or decommission facilities.

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